Police arrested at least 70 people after riots erupted for a third night around the Netherlands on Monday, after protests at the weekend which was originally linked to disagreements over a government decision to introduce a night ban.
But the motivation behind vandalism and other incidents on Monday in cities stretching from Rotterdam and Amsterdam to smaller centers in Haarlem, Geleen and Den Bosch was no longer clear, with rioters overwhelmingly in their teens.
Police Chief Willem Woelders said on TV that 70 arrests had taken place around 10 pm local time. Water cannons were used against looters in Rotterdam and tear gas was used to disperse crowds in Haarlem.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte had condemned the riots over the weekend in which anti-lockdown protesters attacked police and set them on fire.
The curfew, the first in the country since World War II, was introduced after the National Institutes of Health (RIVM) warned that a new wave of infections was on the way due to the “British variant” of COVID-19, although the number of new infections in The Netherlands has been declining for several weeks. About 4,129 new cases were reported on Monday, the lowest number since December 1.
Police said hundreds had been detained over the weekend when rioters threw stones and in one case stabbed police and burned down a COVID-19 test station.
Police said they issued more than 5,700 fines for breaking the curfew, which lasts from 9pm to 4.30pm local time.
“This has nothing to do with protest, this is criminal violence,” Rutte told reporters outside his office in The Hague. Schools and non-essential shops in the Netherlands have been closed since mid-December after bars and restaurants closed two months earlier.
There have been 13,579 deaths in COVID-19 so far and 952,950 infections so far.
The police union NPB said that there may be more protests in the future as the lockdown drags on and the Netherlands’ vaccination program has been among the slowest in Europe to get started.
“We have not seen so much violence in 40 years,” said police union board member Koen Simmers in the television program Nieuwsuur.