Wednesday 08 December 2021

Dutch prime minister condemns ‘idiot’ rioters involved in pure violence

Mark Rutte addresses journalists on Monday. Photo: Lex van Lieshout ANP

After three nights of trouble in towns and cities across the Netherlands, prime minister Mark Rutte has condemned the rioting as ‘pure violence’, which has nothing to do with demonstrating.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with ministers to discuss the latest coronavirus figures, Rutte said that he recognised there are mounting tensions in society because everyone is fed up with coronavirus.

‘But I shall never accept idiots using violence against people who are out there every day, keeping this country safe for you and me,’ he said. ‘And they do this under the pretext of “we’re not happy”. This is nothing but pure violence.’

Police and justice ministry officials will do everything in their power to track down the perpetrators, he said. They will do this, he said, ‘to make sure that the right to demonstrate remains for all the decent people who object to the [coronavirus] policy.’

The rioting kicked off in Rotterdam on Friday evening, when 49 people were arrested after a demonstration against the coronavirus rules degenerated into a riot. Police cars were set on fire and emergency service workers were pelted with fireworks. Police fired warning shots and on two instances fired at the crowd.

On Saturday there were dozens of arrests in copycat riots in The Hague, Roermond, on the Protestant island of Urk and in the Limburg town of Stein. On Sunday night it was the turn of Groningen, Enschede, Leeuwarden, Tilburg and Roosendaal.

The rioting is being carried out not by socially cohesive groups, but by multiple  groups getting together, ranging from football hooligans to frustrated youngsters and ‘defenders’, says anthropologist Danny de Vries from the University of Amsterdam.

‘What they have in common is the goal to sabotage the government, and they see the police as representing this government,’ he said. ‘So they target police, which seems to be a relatively new development.’

Ministers are meeting this week to discuss the next steps, as the number of coronavirus cases reported on a daily basis tops 20,000. A formal lockdown is among the measures being suggested by some health experts.

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