Dutch anti-lockdown riots extent to a third night

A man is arrested by police during clashes in Rotterdam on Jan 25, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

AMSTERDAM (REUTERS) - Rioting broke out for a third night in Dutch cities on Monday (Jan 25), initially linked to protests over a government decision to add a nighttime curfew to the Netherlands' already strict lockdown.

The motivation behind incidents in Rotterdam and in the southern city of Geleen on Monday was not immediately clear, but rioters were overwhelmingly in their teens and twenties.

Police Chief Willem Woelders said on television that 70 arrests had taken place by around 10pm local time. Water cannons were used against looters in Rotterdam and tear gas used to disperse crowds in Haarlem.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte earlier on Monday had condemned the riots over the weekend in which demonstrators attacked police and set fires.

The curfew, the first in the country since World War Two, was imposed after the National Institute for Health (RIVM) warned a new wave of infections is on its way due to the"British variant" of Covid-19, though numbers of new infections in the Netherlands have been declining for weeks. Some 4,129 new cases were reported on Monday, the lowest number since Dec 1.

Police said hundreds had been detained over the weekend in incidents that began on Saturday evening and lasted until the early hours of Monday, including some in which rioters threw rocks and in one case knives at police and burned down a Covid-19 testing station.

Police said issued more than 5,700 fines for breaking the curfew, which lasts from 9pm to 4.30am local time.

"This has nothing to do with protest, this is criminal violence and we will treat it as such," Mr Rutte told reporters outside his office in The Hague.

Schools and non-essential shops in the Netherlands have been shut since mid-December, following the closure of bars and restaurants two months earlier.

There have been 13,579 deaths in the Netherlands from COVID-19 and 952,950 infections to date.

The police trade union NPB said there could be more protests ahead as people grow more frustrated with the months-long lockdown.

"We haven't seen so much violence in 40 years," union board member Koen Simmers said on television program Nieuwsuur.

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