March 9, 2021

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What you need to know about the Dutch coronavirus riots

5 min read
Violence has erupted across the country after the imposition of a curfew to stop the coronavirus.

The Netherlands has been shaken by three nights of rioting, from major cities to small towns, by people angry at the imposition of a nighttime curfew to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Police have described it as the worst unrest in four decades. 

Riot police clashed with protesters in Amsterdam as well as Rotterdam and The Hague. In the southern city of Den Bosch, rioters set off fireworks, broke windows, looted shops and overturned cars. 

But why is this happening in the Netherlands? Here are five FAQs on the Dutch riots. 

What happened?

Starting Saturday, the Netherlands introduced a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., which is supposed to last until February 10, in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Anyone outside between those hours must carry an official form with the reason, or risk a €95 fine.

The unrest started on day one of the curfew: In Enschede, protesters threw stones at a hospital while in Urk — a town of just over 20,000 — a coronavirus testing center was set on fire

Police have arrested approximately 450 people over the past few days, mostly in Amsterdam.

The Dutch police union (NPB) said it feared that the protests were just the start of curfew-related unrest. “I hope it was a one-off, but I’m afraid it was a harbinger for the coming days and weeks,” NPB spokesman Koen Simmers said on Sunday. “We haven’t seen so much violence in 40 years.”

Who’s rioting? 

The riots grew out of calls on social media platforms such as Telegram and Snapchat to protest against the new lockdown measures.

Officials said the rioters were overwhelmingly in their teens, and questioned the extent to which they were motivated by opposition to the curfew. A survey by I&O Research for broadcaster NOS found that a majority of Dutch people support the strict measures, with 70 percent saying they believed the government was right to bring in a curfew. 

Jelle van Buuren, of the University of Leiden, told the newspaper NRC that the protesters are very diverse and consist of young people, football hooligans, radical-right groups such as Pegida and “hippy-like” groups who are critical of vaccinations. 

“You cannot distill a single political program from their grievances, they are too different for that. They mainly agree on what they’re against, not what they support,” he said. 

National Security Council Chairman Hubert Bruls agreed, saying there is no one group behind the riots. “The rioters were of various types, some of them hooligans. We also saw copycat behaviour: people who saw the images from Amsterdam and Eindhoven and initiated that” behavior elsewhere, he said. 

Bruls added that the authorities are closely monitoring social media in order to curb the spread of violence. 

What’s been the political reaction?

Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday condemned the riots, calling them acts of “criminal violence,” and adding that “99 percent” of the Dutch population did stick to the curfew.

Rutte, who’s now caretaker prime minister after the government resigned earlier this month, stressed that the violence and rioting will not have any effect on the measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. “The curfew remains necessary. It is the virus that is robbing us of our freedom,” he said.

Although the riots are not the work of one specific population group, far-right politicians Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet blamed immigrants for the violence. “This has nothing to do with protest and everything to do with failed mass immigration,” Baudet’s Forum for Democracy party wrote on Twitter Monday.

“The — often immigrant — scum are destroying our country,” Wilders said

Mayors in several cities have issued emergency decrees giving the police broader powers of arrest. 

“These people are shameless thieves, I cannot say otherwise,” Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said. “I had to threaten them with the use of teargas — a far-reaching measure. I find that sad, because I have never had to do that in my entire career as mayor.”

Why the Netherlands?

There have been protests and riots in other European cities in response to coronavirus measures, including Berlin and Rome

The main difference in the Netherlands is that the government initially opted for a more lax approach, resisting measures such as masks and curfews and appealing instead to the common sense of Dutch citizens.  

Experts suggest that this approach has come back to haunt the government almost a year later, with some people struggling to accept that the Netherlands has been forced to introduce strict measures that it initially dismissed. 

Despite the violence, support for the government’s approach remains high, with 75 percent fully or largely behind the Cabinet’s strategy. In the I&O Research survey, almost half of those polled believed the curfew should be extended and a third said it should be even tougher.

Leo Lucassen, director of the International Institute of Social History, in an op-ed in NRC, blamed Wilders and Baudet for vowing to oppose the curfew from the moment it was announced.

“Although Thierry Baudet, as well as the Urk division of PVV [Wilders’ party], say they find the destruction and looting terrible, their crocodile tears do not seem very credible,” he said.

What happens next?

Some right-wing politicians, including Wilders, have called on the government to send in the army. However, there is no indication that Rutte is considering a military deployment.

Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaud said on Tuesday that the “hooligans” who rioted and vandalized city centers will have to pay for the damage.

“I see boys aged 20 and 21 who are at the start of their working life, but they’ll receive a claim for damages because they found it necessary to loot a supermarket,” Grapperhaus said. 

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/faq-need-to-know-netherlands-dutch-riots-covid-curfew/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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