The mayor of Rotterdam called it “an orgy of violence” as thousands of young people flooded the streets to protest against recently reimposed pandemic restrictions.
All across Europe, people are taking to the streets as governments deal with the increase in infections by closing businesses and imposing restrictions on public gatherings.
There was violence in Austria as the government imposed the worst restrictions since last spring. “I want my freedom back,” one young protester told an Austrian TV station.
Police said that two rioters were hospitalized after being hit by bullets and investigations were underway to establish if they were shot by police. The condition of the injured rioters was not disclosed.
Officers arrested 51 people, about half of them minors, police said Saturday afternoon. One police officer was hospitalized with a leg injury sustained in the rioting, another was treated by ambulance staff and “countless” others suffered minor injuries.
Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters in the early hours of Saturday morning that “on a number of occasions the police felt it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves” as rioters ran rampage through the port city’s central shopping district, setting fires and throwing rocks and fireworks at officers.
According to another AP report, “Demonstrations against virus restrictions were also taking place Saturday in Switzerland, Croatia and Italy.”
But it was in Rotterdam that the protests against the new restrictions were most intense.
The government has said it wants to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict the country’s coronavirus pass system to only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 — that would exclude people who test negative.
The country has seen record numbers of infections in recent days and a new partial lockdown came into force a week ago.
Local political party Leefbaar Rotterdam condemned the violence in a tweet.
“The center of our beautiful city has this evening transformed into a war zone,” it said. “Rotterdam is a city where you can disagree with things that happen but violence is never, never, the solution.”
If you’re not vaccinated and if you haven’t caught the virus, you’re SOL in the Netherlands. You can’t go out to eat or drink, you can’t go to a soccer match; you’re stuck at home until the authorities give the “all clear” — just like they did during World War II.
How long will people put up with this? If Rotterdam is any indication, some kind of reckoning is approaching. And the explosion won’t be pretty.