in the Netherlands, two evenings of riots against health restrictions

► In what context did these outbursts of anger take place?

Like the demonstrations this weekend in Vienna, where 40,000 people gathered to protest against containment measures and compulsory vaccination, the Netherlands is affected by a movement against new health restrictions which aim to stem a new outbreak of Covid-19 (20,000 cases per day).

The government of Mark Rutte decided on Saturday, November 13 to close bars and restaurants at 8 p.m., at least until December 4. Take-out orders are still possible. Cinemas, theaters and stadiums remain open. The inhabitants are free to circulate in the streets. It is therefore a very partial re-containment, but Parliament is considering a passage to the rule of « 2G » which allows only vaccinated and cured people to access certain public places.

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Friday evening, a mobilization in the center of Rotterdam turned to the “Orgy of violence”, to use the expression used by the mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb. The next day four destroyed police cars, including one charred, testified to the outburst. The police, attacked with fireworks mortar, proceeded – extremely rare – to warning shots before injuring three assailants by bullet. The next day in The Hague – the seat of government – riot police charged groups of demonstrators who threw stones at them in the popular district of Schilderswijk. Violence also broke out in Urk, a small Protestant town in the center of the country where hostility to vaccination is very strong, and in several localities in Limburg (south).

► Who are the violent rioters?

A typical profile of the demonstrators is very difficult to establish. The facts concern both city centers, working-class neighborhoods, large urban centers as well as more rural areas. Conspiracyists rub shoulders with worried corporations. In Rotterdam, protesters made extensive use of the Telegram social network to find each other. Among the most active groups, however, we find Whistleblowers for freedom (Whistleblowers for freedom) and its 7,000 members in association with Dockers United.

This other group, formed by port workers, had blocked the largest port in Europe, the day before the riots in Rotterdam. In a video, they can be seen masked in hoodies. They refuse a QR Code check at their workplace. “We are many, we are organized, do not mess with us”, they declare.

On social networks, the assault on the US Capitol by thousands of rioters, at the instigation of outgoing President Donald Trump, is also cited as a reference for mobilization. “The external groups are very quickly on the spot, they can in a way choose where they are going to revolt”, Gerrit van de Kamp, president of the largest police union (ACP), warns in the newspaper Volkskrant.

► What can the police do?

The Netherlands is not at its first scenes of violence against health measures. In the summer of 2020, attacks on Covid testing centers have already taken place in several cities across the country, according to a dual mechanism of mimicry and overbidding. The police “Watch closely” rallying messages on the Internet. About fifty people were arrested in Rotterdam, others were arrested in The Hague and Urk.

→ READ. In the Netherlands, the rebellious spirit of the “Bible Belt”

Gerrit van de Kamp denounces a form of angelism on the part of the political class and the lack of social reading of the crisis, in addition to the health assessment. “For years and years we have been warning against the radicalization of protest movements, of people who feel threatened in their freedom and who are on the verge of exploding”, he laments.

The authorities fear that the level of violence observed in Rotterdam will spread to the rest of the country. Saturday, November 20 in Amsterdam, a demonstration was canceled, which did not prevent several hundred people from going to the capital. In Breda, where clashes already took place last year, the police force has been strengthened. The police are also paying attention to the stadiums. On Saturday night, two football matches were canceled due to supporters invading the pitch.

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