Police detain 100 people in Amsterdam after protest over lockdown, curfew

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Dutch police used water cannon, dogs and mounted police to disperse a protest in central Amsterdam on Sunday against coronavirus lockdown restrictions and detained more than 100 people for throwing stones and fireworks.

Demonstrators are sprayed by police water cannon at Amsterdam's Museumplein during a protest against the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the outgoing government's policy, on January 21, 2021.

Demonstrators sprayed by police water cannon at Amsterdam’s Museumplein at the protest. Photo: AFP

The demonstration in the city’s Museum Square, which violated a ban on public gatherings, came the day after the government introduced a nightly curfew for the first time since World War II.

Protesters, organised in part by restaurant owners fed up with the country’s long-lasting lockdown measures, carried a banner saying ‘Stop The Lockdown’.

Fearing a riot or a disease-spreading event, Mayor Femke Halsema had designated the square as a “high-risk zone” and gave police the power to pre-emptively frisk people for weapons.

Police cleared the square after people ignored instructions to leave and detained those who attacked them with stones and fireworks in nearby streets, the mayor’s office said.

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Parliament voted narrowly last week to approve the curfew, swayed by assertions that a variant of Covid-19 first identified in Britain was about to cause a new surge in cases. New infections in the country have generally been declining for a month, and fell again on Sunday, to 4924 new cases.

On Saturday night, police had arrested 25 people across the country and handed out 3600 fines for curfew violations.

Police said those who were arrested had refused to go home or committed acts of violence. A group of youths in the fishing village of Urk threw fireworks and rocks at police and burned down a temporary Covid-19 testing centre.

Exceptions to the curfew, which runs through Feb. 9, include medical emergencies, people performing essential jobs and people walking their dogs. Violators can be fined 95 euros ($NZ170).

Schools and non-essential shops in the Netherlands have been shut since mid-December, following the closure of bars and restaurants two months earlier.

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The Netherlands was the last country in the Europe Union to begin vaccinations and has so far vaccinated a total of 77,000 doctors and nurses in a country of 18 million people.

– Reuters

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