Rioters clash with police and damage property in the Dutch capital Amsterdam and the southern city of Eindhoven.
Protests against a new curfew to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the Netherlands have turned into riots and clashes with police in some places, authorities and reports say.
Authorities used water cannons and dogs on Sunday in a central Amsterdam square, where hundreds gathered during the curfew that began on Saturday, NOS state television reported. Videos showed police spraying people gathered against a wall in the Van Gogh Museum.
Protesters, organized in part by restaurant owners tired of the country’s long-term lockdown measures, carried a banner reading “Stop The Lockdown”. The crowd of hundreds also included supporters of the anti-immigrant group PEGIDA.
Police said they detained more than 100 people for throwing stones and fireworks.
In Eindhoven, in the south of the country, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred people, regional television Omroep Brabant reported.
Several vehicles were set on fire and shops at Eindhoven Central Station were looted, media reports said. No injuries were immediately reported.
Dutch rail company NS has called on travelers to avoid Eindhoven station, where train traffic has been interrupted due to the intervention of emergency services nearby.
A COVID-19 test center was also set on fire on Saturday evening in the village of Urk, in the north of the country, local authorities said.
“The fire in a screening center in Urk exceeds all limits,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Sunday.
The 9:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew is the country’s first since World War II, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte saying there is a need to reduce the number of virus cases. Violators face a fine of 95 euros ($ 115).
Exemptions are possible, especially for people returning from a funeral or those who have to work, but on condition of presenting a certificate.
Police said they fined more than 3,600 people across the country for breaking the curfew and arrested 25 people for breaking the curfew or for violence.
The recent incidents were the worst violence to hit the Netherlands since the start of the pandemic and the second Sunday in a row when police clashed with rioters in Amsterdam.
Police and city officials released a statement on Sunday expressing their anger over the riots, “from the launching of fireworks and stones to the destruction of police cars and the burning of the test site as a deep point.”
Rutte also announced on Wednesday a ban on flights from the UK, South Africa and South America, and a reduction in the number of guests allowed in households to one, from the previous limit of of them.
The new variants of the virus have raised deep concerns in Europe, especially a more infectious strain that first emerged in the UK.
The Netherlands was already under its toughest measures since the start of the pandemic, with bars and restaurants having closed in October and schools and non-essential shops closed since December.
Rutte and his cabinet resigned on January 22 following a scandal involving child tax benefits, but they will continue to rule until the election in mid-March.