Police fire shots as Covid riots hit Holland
Protesters torch police car, hurl stones: Dozens arrests, many injured
Demonstrators take part in a protest against a coronavirus lockdown and the government policy on Coolsingel Street in the port city of Rotterdam.–AFP
Chaos broke out after a protest in the port city against the coronavirus restrictions and government plans to restrict access for unvaccinated people to some venues.
Dozens of people were arrested and seven people were injured in total, including police officers, during the night-time rampage on one of Rotterdam's main shopping streets.
The Netherlands went back into Western Europe's first partial lockdown of the winter last Saturday with at least three weeks of curbs on restaurants, shops and sports.
Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb described the riots as an "orgy of violence".
Police said in a statement that the demonstration that started on the Coolsingel street "has 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," they added. They did not give a number but public broadcaster NOS said two people were hurt.
- 'Very serious situation' -
The situation had largely calmed later but the smoking wreckage of a burned-out police car and dozens of smashed bicycles littered the scene, an AFP reporter said.
Police also cordoned off several scenes to comb for evidence, with a human finger visible on the ground at one of them, the AFP correspondent said.
"Most of the demonstrators are now gone. There only remain a few groups in a few places," police spokesman Jesse Brobbel told AFP.
Rotterdam authorities issued an emergency order banning people from gathering in the area "to maintain public order", while its main railway station was closed.
"This is a very serious situation which requires action with the highest priority," said the emergency order by the Rotterdam municipality.
Tensions will now be high ahead of planned demonstrations in Amsterdam and the southern city of Breda on Saturday. Local media say thousands of people are expected to attend.
- Record infections -
The latest restrictions were announced on November 12, and sparked clashes between demonstrators and police outside the justice ministry in The Hague.
But the most controversial measure could be yet to come.
The Dutch government is considering excluding the unvaccinated from bars and restaurants -- the so-called 2G option -- limiting admittance to people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from the disease.
However there was significant opposition to the plan during a debate in parliament this week.
Similar measures have already been taken in neighbouring Germany, while Austria initially did so but has now gone into full lockdown.
Earlier Friday the Dutch government outlawed traditional fireworks over New Year for a second year in a row "to prevent an extra burden on care workers," the government said.