Corona riots shock the Netherlands | Free press


Rotterdam (AP) – The Netherlands is stunned and angry: otherwise beautiful historic city centers have been destroyed after the second night of riots in a row.

‘Like in a war’, a young woman says in the morning in the center of ‘s Hertogenbosch. Especially the carnival stronghold about 100 kilometers south of Amsterdam was hit by the Corona riots late on Monday evening. Riots had broken out in more than ten cities – including Amsterdam, The Hague, Haarlem, Geleen and Rotterdam.

The following morning, the police and mayor draw a bitter balance: 184 arrests, ten police officers injured in Rotterdam, the damage runs into the millions.

Eyewitness videos and TV recordings show scenes of violence. The riots broke out shortly before curfew began at 9 p.m. Dozens of youths marched through the streets, looting and furious, smashing shop windows, knocking over cars, demolishing bus stops, setting fires and attacking police officers with stones and fireworks.

The country is shocked and has many questions for everyone: what is behind the incredible outbreak of violence? And – the mayor, police and politicians ask: how do we get the genie back in the bottle?

It was the third night with a curfew – the toughest corona measure to date was first imposed on Saturday. Demonstrations against this took place on Sunday in Amsterdam and Eindhoven. This turned to violence when the police forcibly stopped the actions.

The curfew clearly looked like a fuse on the powder keg. The Corona protests in Amsterdam and Eindhoven on Sunday were already inundated, says the chairman of the Council for the Security of the Regions, Hubert Bruls: “What we are seeing now has nothing to do with curfews. These people were deliberately waiting for a riot. ‘

The mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, stated: “They are shameless thieves”. The port city in particular was hit hard by looting and violence. Police used water cannons and tear gas, and even fired a warning shot, police said.

The mayor of ‘s Hertogenbosch, Jack Mikkers, does not hide his anger: “Troublemakers, thieves, criminals”, he says. About 80 perpetrators had destroyed the city. Some even tried to attack the Jheronimus Bosch Hospital, the clinic reported. Ambulances should have avoided. “That was frightening for the employees,” says hospital director Piet-Hein Buiting.

“That was really crazy,” says a young woman on the radio. She lives in the center of the city. “They were mainly boys. Cap, mask or scarf for the face, they were not women, not elderly, only boys. “

The description coincides with observations from almost all places. It is mainly about teenagers. The youngest rioters to be arrested was 14 years old.

It is unclear what kind of groups these are, says criminologist Henk Ferwerda in the TV news magazine Nieuwsuur. “These are virus deniers, those with a political agenda and those who just want to get down to it.” Anger against the government, boredom, hopelessness, lust for rage – this is a poisonous cocktail.

The degree of violence is unknown in the Netherlands. Police say it’s the worst unrest in 40 years – after the squatters’ unrest in the 1980s. But the riots are not atypical, says terrorism expert Beatrice de Graaf. “There was also unrest among young people in the 1990s.” And finally there were violent farmers’ protests and corona reports.

What is new, according to the professor, is that the unrest is mainly coming from the radical right. And the role of social media is also new. “You can see young people calling each other on Snapchat and Telegram, and they are streaming the looting live. They even give each other points – like a computer game. “

Groups across the country were able to quickly meet via social media. The unrest spread like an oil slick. And politicians are now criticizing the reaction of right-wing populists Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet. They would use the turmoil in the current parliamentary election campaign in mid-March to stir up the vote against the government.

The police are doing everything they can to stop the violence. Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus promised that action would be taken quickly and harshly. Violent criminals should be punished by express law and “if possible with imprisonment without parole”.

The government makes one thing clear. Curfew remains. “We will not surrender to a few idiots”, says Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra of the television channel NOS.