X

Protest on COVID Restrictions Turns City Into 'War Zone'

Police fire on demonstrators in Dutch city of Rotterdam; 2 rioters hospitalized
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 20, 2021 9:15 AM CST
Protest on COVID Restrictions Turns Into 'Orgy of Violence'
In this image taken from video, demonstrators protest against government restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic on Friday in Rotterdam, Netherlands.   (Media TV Rotterdam via AP)

(Newser) – Police opened fire on protesters in rioting that erupted in downtown Rotterdam around a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions late Friday night, with the Dutch city's mayor calling it "an orgy of violence." Police said two rioters were hospitalized after being hit by bullets, and investigations were underway to establish if they were shot by police. The condition of the injured rioters wasn't disclosed, per the AP. Officers arrested 51 people, about half of them minors, police said Saturday. One police officer was hospitalized with a leg injury sustained in the rioting, another was treated by ambulance staff, and "countless" others suffered minor injuries.

story continues below

Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters in the early hours of Saturday morning that "on a number of occasions the police felt it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves" as rioters rampaged through the port city's central shopping district, setting fires and throwing rocks and fireworks at officers. "They shot at protesters, people were injured," Aboutaleb said. He didn't have details on the injuries. Police were also said to have fired warning shots.

Photos from the scene showed at least one police car in flames and another with a bicycle slammed through its windshield. Police units from around the country raced to Rotterdam to help bring the situation under control, and riot police and a water cannon restored calm after midnight. It was one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the Netherlands since coronavirus restrictions were first imposed last year. In January, rioters also attacked police and set fires on the streets of Rotterdam after a curfew came into force. The country has seen record numbers of infections in recent days, and a new partial lockdown came into force a week ago.

The government has also said it wants to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict the nation's coronavirus pass system to only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. Local political party Leefbaar Rotterdam condemned Friday's violence in a tweet. "The center of our beautiful city has this evening transformed into a war zone," it said. "Rotterdam is a city where you can disagree with things that happen but violence is never, never, the solution." Police combing through video footage from security cameras expect to make more arrests. An independent investigation into the shootings by police has been opened.

(Read more Netherlands stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
X
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.

X