AMSTERDAM – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday lashed out at “idiot” rioters who rampaged through cities across the Netherlands this weekend when protests against coronavirus policies turned violent.
More than 100 people were arrested during three nights of violence, which saw police open fire at rioters in Rotterdam on Friday.
“This was pure violence disguised as protest,” Rutte said in response to the worst disturbances since a full lockdown led to widespread disorder in January.
“There is a lot of unrest in society because we have been dealing with the misery of corona for so long. But I will never accept idiots using pure violence just because they are unhappy.”
Around 30 people were arrested on Sunday, following dozens of arrests on the previous two days, as mobs of angry youths set fires and threw rocks.
Black-clad groups pelted police vans with stones, and in The Hague a rock was thrown through the windshield of an ambulance trying to take a patient to hospital.
Violence began in Rotterdam on Friday night, as a protest against government plans to ban most people who have not been vaccinated from public places quickly turned violent.
Although some lockdown measures were reimposed in the Netherlands on Nov. 13, daily infections surged to their highest levels since the start of the pandemic last week.
This has forced Dutch hospitals to scale back regular care, and put pressure on the government to take even more measures to ensure care remains available for all urgent cases.
“This weak approach won’t prevent care from falling apart”, the Dutch association of healthcare workers, V&VN, said on Monday.
“The infection rate shows that the current measures hardly have any effect.”