Raging against the curfew: the riots in the Netherlands

 

Raging against the curfew: the riots in the Netherlands

The Netherlands’ image as “a bucolic country of bridges and bikes” took a hit last week, as the country faced its worst riots in 40 years, Anti-lockdown protests, which began in the small, historically rebellious fishing village of Urk in the country’s north, quickly spread to ten cities across Holland. A pedestrian bridge was blown up in Amsterdam; cars were torched in Den Bosch; and police came under attack in cities including Rotterdam. Some rioters even set fire to a Covid testing centre and threw rocks at hospitals and police. The unrest began when, in order to combat the rapidly spreading UK coronavirus variant, the Dutch government introduced a night-time curfew, – the nation’s first since Nazi occupation in the Second World War. Over the following three nights, hundreds of people were arrested as police were forced to defend themselves with water cannon and dogs. Cities were left looking like war zones.

The protests were started by those with “legitimate concerns” about their civil liberties being curtailed, But they were quickly hijacked by a motley crew of anti-vaxxers, virus deniers, and football hooligans who seized on the chance to let out “pent-up aggression”. By the third night, the vast majority of rioters were simply “aggressive vandals” who were spoiling for a fight, Many came from the far-right. Now they must face the full force of the law. “Chaos must not be allowed to reign.”

Actually, the causes of this unrest were deep-rooted, Spending cuts over the past decade have taken a heavy toll on public services. Young people are finding it increasingly difficult to get on the housing ladder; jobs are precarious. Big businesses have enjoyed tax breaks and inequality has worsened. Recent events have added to a sense of dissatisfaction, With a general election due to be held in March, the Dutch government resigned last month in a scandal over child benefit payments. It has faced criticism from the populist Right for tightening Holland’s once relaxed lockdown rules, while the country’s vaccine roll-out has been the second slowest in the EU. Most Dutch people remain broadly supportive of the government’s pandemic response. “But that is not to say they agree with the direction the country is taking in general.”

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