Police presence subdues virus curfew violence in Dutch cities

World | 27 Jan 2021 12:51 pm

Police took to the streets of Dutch towns and cities in force Tuesday night in an attempt to prevent violent rioting that shook the country for three successive nights after a nationwide curfew was introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

By late night, the increased police presence appeared to have paid off, with no major rioting or clashes between youths and police reported.

“We are seeing a different picture to yesterday,” police chief Willem Woelders told Dutch current affairs show Nieuwsuur.

“I think what has also helped is that you see an atmosphere among the population that this (rioting) is unacceptable,” Woelders told another talk show, Op1.

Police in Rotterdam said they arrested 33 people for minor offenses and vandalism before the nightly curfew took effect at 9:00 p.m. Local broadcaster Rijnmond reported that riot police were deployed in the south and west of the city, but police did not immediately report any major disturbances.

In Amsterdam, riot police were sent to a commercial street where a large group of youths had gathered and set off fireworks, but there were no violent confrontations.

The rioting, which started with the torching of a coronavirus testing center in a fishing village on Saturday night, is the worst to hit the Netherlands in years. It was initially triggered by anger over a tough coronavirus lockdown that has been in force since mid-December, but calls for rioting swirling on social media and mainly spread among young people increasingly fueled the unrest.

Schools have been closed in the country since the Christmas holidays. Police said Tuesday afternoon that video images showed that many rioters were young teenagers and that many of the people they arrested were picked up close to their homes.

“I join others in appealing to parents to keep their children at home. Certainly after 2100, stay indoors,” said North Holland regional Police Chief Anja Schouten.

The violence has stretched the police and led at times to the deployment of military police. On Monday night, rioters pelted police with rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails and looted shops in at least two cities, Rotterdam and Den Bosch.

A total of 184 people were arrested in Monday night’s unrest. Police ticketed more than 1,700 for breaching the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew, which carries a fine of 95 euros ($115). Officers around the country also detained dozens suspected of inciting rioting through social media.

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said earlier Tuesday that riots would quickly be brought before the courts and face possible prison terms if convicted.

“They won’t get away with it,” he told reporters in The Hague.

“If you rob people who are struggling, with the help of the government, to keep their head above water, it’s totally scandalous,” Grapperhaus told reporters. He stressed that the curfew is necessary in the fight against the coronavirus.-AP




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