Protesters across the Netherlands have clashed with police in massive demonstrations against tougher COVID-19 restrictions, leading to the arrests of nearly 260 people.
The unusually violent protests on Sunday came on the second day of newly-implemented, strict coronavirus limitations, including a night curfew, which had triggered what the Dutch police and media outlets described as riots.
According to local press reports, demonstrators looted stores, set vehicles on fire, destroyed public property and pelted police officers with stones in several Dutch cities across the European nation.
Police forces in the nation’s capital of Amsterdam resorted to water cannons, dogs and mounted officers to disperse a huge protest in the city center Sunday afternoon, according to eye-witnesses.
Nearly 200 protesters there were taken into custody, police authorities said, charging them with throwing stones and fireworks.
According to national broadcaster NOS, riot police were deployed in at least 10 cities and towns throughout the country after a curfew went into effect at 9pm local time on Saturday.
Dutch military police also said in a Twitter post late Sunday that they were supporting local police forces in at least two cities south of the country.
Moreover, Dutch television broadcast images showing groups of youths looting shops, throwing bicycles and setting fires in the southern city of Eindhoven, where at least 55 protesters were arrested, according to a statement issued by local authorities.
The protest rally in the city’s Museum Square, which violated a ban on public gatherings, followed government imposition — a day earlier — of a nightly curfew for the first time since World War II.
Police forces dispersed the protesters from the square after crowds ignored orders to leave and arrested those who attacked them with stones and fireworks in nearby streets, Eindhoven mayor’s office announced.
The nationwide protests came after the Dutch parliament narrowly approved the curfew last week, persuaded by reports that a variant of COVID-19 first identified in the UK was about to cause a new surge in infections.
The vote came despite declining number of confirmed new cases in the country for the past month. This is while new infections fell again on Sunday to 4,924 cases.
The Netherlands has so far reported 944,000 COVID-19 infections and 13,540 fatalities from the contagion.