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Netherlands in shock after weekend of violent protests against unprecedented curfew

A hospital attacked in Enschede, a screening center destroyed by fire in Urk, police officers threatened with knives in Eindhoven, charges from the mounted police in the heart of Amsterdam … the Netherlands were in shock, Monday 25 January, after a weekend marked by violent protests against decisions imposed by the government to contain the Covid-19 epidemic.

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister who has resigned for ten days, and who is embarking on the campaign for the legislative elections of March 17, denounced “Criminal violence which will be treated as such”. “All of this has nothing to do with a struggle for freedom. We must win the fight against the virus, otherwise we will not regain our freedom ”, explained the liberal leader.

Read also Covid-19 around the world: clashes with police on the sidelines of protests against curfew in the Netherlands

Ten cities in total were the scene of violent incidents for which the police and gendarmerie said they had prepared themselves by noting the many calls for mobilization launched on social networks. The determination of the demonstrators, who were often only a few hundred, surprised everyone, however. Including journalists, threatened and sometimes attacked, because they are considered accomplices of the authorities. The reporters of the public channel have also given up for a few weeks to travel in satellite trucks bearing the NOS logo and are now accompanied by bodyguards, one of whom was sprayed with pepper spray on the weekend of January 23 and 24.

The movement visibly brought together opponents of all types: anti-vaccines, discontented young people, thugs, opponents of the policy of the liberal prime minister, defenders of public freedoms, etc. It is not the first time that protests have been organized but they have never taken a turn so violent.

“Risk of civil war”

In Amsterdam, one of the spokespersons for the demonstrators wore a cap with the Trumpist slogan “Make America great again”. Michel Reijinga, presented as the organizer of a mobilization which seemed in reality very informal, affirmed, him, that he rejected violence and had only invited to ” have coffee “ on the Place du Musée, the capital’s cultural hotspot.

The protest movement has also reached more unusual places, such as Urk, in the heart of the Dutch “Bible Belt”. This small fishing port in the province of Flevoland is a hotbed of Protestant conservatism, where more than 90% of the inhabitants attend the temple. In October, the population had broken the rules limiting the number of worshipers to 30, believing that God’s law was superior to that of the government. Only the death of a doctor with Covid-19 and the fact that the town held the national record for contaminations seemed to have recently overcome the hostility of residents to vaccination.

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