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Riot police officers face protesters as they gather in the Hague, on November 12, 2021, during a press conference of Dutch Prime Minister held to announce new Covid-19 restrictions. — AFP pic
Riot police officers face protesters as they gather in the Hague, on November 12, 2021, during a press conference of Dutch Prime Minister held to announce new Covid-19 restrictions. — AFP pic

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THE HAGUE, Nov 21 — Fresh rioting broke out late yesterday over the Dutch government’s coronavirus measures, with rioters throwing stones and fireworks at police, and setting fire to bicycles as protests turn violent for a second night in the Netherlands.

Police arrested at least one person in a working class neighbourhood of The Hague after a day of minor protests elsewhere in the country were mainly peaceful, AFP correspondents saw.

On Friday night, at least two people were injured after police fired shots at protesters and 51 were arrested after an “orgy” of violence in Rotterdam.

The Netherlands went back into Western Europe’s first partial lockdown of the winter last Saturday with at least three weeks of curbs, and is now planning to ban unvaccinated people from entering some venues.

Earlier several thousand protesters angered at the latest measures gathered in Amsterdam yesterday, despite one group earlier in the day having cancelled their rally because of the previous night’s violence.

Another thousand marched through the southern city of Breda near the Belgian border, carrying banners with slogans such as “No Lockdown”.

Organisers said they opposed Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s plans to exclude the unvaccinated from bars and restaurants.

“People want to live, that’s why we’re here,” said organiser Joost Eras.

But “we’re not rioters. We come in peace,” he said.

Around him the mood was festive, with some protesters dancing behind floats carrying DJs, dubbed “party buses”.

A few people let off smoke grenades or fireworks as the protesters dispersed.

The latest demonstrations followed the Rotterdam unrest in which police said they had fired both warning and targeted shots and used water cannon.

“Fifty-one people were arrested during the major disturbances on Friday evening and night on Coolsingel (street) in Rotterdam. About half of them were just underage,” Rotterdam police said in a tweet.

The rioters came from different parts of the country, they said. Police were still searching for more suspects.

‘All hell broke loose’

“Two rioters were injured when they were hit by a bullet. They are still in the hospital,” the police said, adding that the Dutch national criminal investigation department would probe “whether the injuries were caused by police bullets”.

A policeman was also taken to hospital with leg injuries while several other officers were hurt or suffered hearing damage because of large fireworks set off by the rioters, police said.

Police had said earlier they had fired several warning shots but that “at one point the situation became so dangerous that officers felt compelled to shoot at targets”.

They dismissed rumours on social media that someone had died during the violence in Rotterdam.

Rotterdam’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb denounced what he called an “orgy of violence”, adding: “The police felt the need to draw a police weapon in the end to defend themselves.”

A group that had called an Amsterdam protest for Saturday, United We Stand Europe, earlier in the day said on Facebook it had cancelled the rally because “last night, all hell broke loose in Rotterdam”.

The Dutch government also condemned the violence in Rotterdam.

“The riots and extreme violence against police, riot police and firefighters last night in Rotterdam are horrifying,” said Security Minister Ferd Grapperhaus.

“The police and the public prosecutor’s office are doing their utmost to track down, prosecute and punish these rioters.” — AFP

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