Five police officers have been injured and at least 40 people arrested in a second night of violence in the Netherlands, as tougher Covid-19 restrictions to curb the resurgent pandemic led to angry protests in several European countries.
Dutch authorities on Saturday deployed water canon, dogs and mounted police to dispel crowds of rioting youths who lit fires and lobbed fireworks in The Hague and elsewhere, after more than 50 people were arrested in Rotterdam on Friday.
There were also demonstrations in Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, Croatia and the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe as governments in multiple EU countries battle a fourth wave of the pandemic, imposing partial lockdowns and tighter restrictions particularly on the unvaccinated.
Police said on Sunday that 19 people were arrested in The Hague in protests triggered by government plans to restrict a national coronavirus pass required to enter bars, restaurants and other venues to people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 – excluding those with a negative test.
Mounted officers carried out multiple charges and five were hurt, one seriously. One protester was detained after throwing a rock through an ambulance window. Eight people were also arrested in the former fishing village of Urk.
Two matches in the country’s top professional football league being played behind closed doors under a three-week partial lockdown imposed last Saturday were briefly halted when fans forced their way into stadiums in Alkmaar and Almelo.
Another 13 arrests were reported by police in two towns in the southern province of Limburg, while disturbances were also reported in the northern province of Flevoland. The protesters were also angry at a New Year’s Eve firework ban.
The latest incidents in the Netherlands – where coronavirus infections have surged to record levels in recent weeks, putting hospitals under severe strain – followed what Rotterdam’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, called “an orgy of violence” on Friday night.
Police opened fire on a crowd that had swelled to hundreds during the protest and
three people believed to have been be hit by police bullets were still being treated in hospital on Sunday, according to a statement from authorities.
Thousands of people also marched peacefully through Amsterdam and the southern Dutch city of Breda earlier on Saturday in protest at the restrictions, with little or no trouble reported.
In Austria, which on Friday announced a 20-day nationwide partial lockdown – the toughest in western Europe for months – and made vaccination mandatory for all from February, as many as 40,000 out to protest in central Vienna.
Responding to a call from the far-right Freedom party (FPÖ), the protesters carried banners reading “corona dictatorship” and “divided society”. Some wore yellow stars reading “not vaccinated”.
The interior minister, Karl Nehammer, expressed his outrage, saying in a statement that the star “insults the millions of victims of the Nazi dictatorship and their families”.
Thousands of protesters also marched in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, while in Denmark about a thousand people protested against government plans to reinstate a measure requiring public sector workers to be vaccinated in order to access their workplaces.
The French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, on Saturday condemned violent demonstrations in the overseas territory of Guadeloupe, where 31 people were detained by police overnight amid riots over a nightly 6pm to 5am curfew.
The protesters also denounced France’s health pass, which has been has been required since the summer to access restaurants, cafes, cinemas and theatres, exercise in gyms, attend sporting events and take planes or long-distance trains.
“The first message is that the state will stand firm,” Darmanin told reporters, adding France would send about 50 members of the GIGN and Raid elite tactical forces of the gendarmerie and police to the territory, where stores have been looted and shots fired at police.
The extra forces will increase the number of police and gendarmes available in Guadeloupe to 2,250. The French prime minister, Jean Castex, is due to meet officials from the island on Monday to discuss the deteriorating situation.