Seven people were injured when a demonstration against the Netherlands‘ newly introduced COVID-19 restrictions turned into violent riot in downtown Rotterdam, forcing police officers to opened fire on protesters.
As rioters ran rampage through the port city’s central shopping district, setting fires and throwing rocks and fireworks at officers, in what the Dutch city’s mayor called “an orgy of violence”.
Rotterdam‘s Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said in the early hours of Saturday morning that “on a number of occasions the police felt it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves”.
“[The police] shot at protesters, people were injured,” Aboutaleb said. He did not have details on the injuries. Police also fired warning shots.
Police said in a statement that the demonstration that started on the Coolsingel street had “resulted in riots. Fires have been set in several places. Fireworks were set off and police fired several warning shots”.
“There are injuries related to the fired shots,” the police added.
A number of police officers also were injured in the violence and officers arrested dozens of people and expect to arrest more after studying video footage from security cameras, Aboutaleb said.
The situation had largely calmed down later, but there was a heavy police presence.
Dutch police said units from around the country were brought in to “restore order” to the city.
Rotterdam authorities issued an emergency order banning people from gathering in the area “to maintain public order”, while its main railway station was closed.
A demonstration planned for today in Amsterdam against COVID-19 curbs was cancelled after the riots in Rotterdam.
It was one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the Netherlands since coronavirus restrictions were first imposed last year. In January, rioters also attacked police and set fires on the streets of Rotterdam after a curfew came into force.
The Netherlands went back into western Europe’s first partial lockdown of the winter season a week ago. The restrictions, which affect restaurants, shops and sport, are expected to remain in force for at least three weeks.
The Netherlands is trying to control a new wave of the coronavirus, with more than 21,000 new cases reported yesterday.
Dutch government is now considering excluding the unvaccinated from bars and restaurants, allowing access only to those who have been fully vaccinated or who have recovered from the disease.