Dutch police fired warning shots on Friday after riots erupted in the port city of Rotterdam against a partial coronavirus lockdown, causing an unknown number of injuries, local police said.
Police also fired water cannons to disperse demonstrators who lit fires and set off fireworks in one of Rotterdam’s main shopping streets, one week after the new Covid-19 measures came into force.
‘A demonstration that started tonight at 8 pm on the Coolsingel has resulted in riots,’ Rotterdam police said in a statement on Twitter.
‘Fires have been set in several places. Fireworks were set off and police fired several warning shots. There are injuries related to the fired shots,’ the statement added.
Video posted on social media showed burnt out police cars and rioters throwing fireworks and rocks at police.
Local media reported gangs of soccer hooligans were involved in the rioting.
Pictured: A scooter set on fire during a protest against the 2G policy in Coolsingel, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 19 November 2021. Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered to protest against the tightened coronavirus measures
‘We fired warning shots and there were also direct shots fired because the situation was life-threatening,’ police spokesperson Patricia Wessels added, speaking to Reuters news agency.
‘We know that at least two people were wounded, probably as a result of the warning shots, but we need to investigate the exact causes further,’ she said.
Police said that riot police later launched charges at the demonstrators, adding: ‘The water launcher has been deployed.’
Rotterdam’s busy main railway station had been closed as a result of the disturbances.
Several hundred people had gathered to voice opposition to government plans to restrict access to indoor venues to people who have a ‘corona pass’ showing they have been vaccinated or already recovered from an infection.
The pass is also available to people who have not been vaccinated, but have proof of a negative test.
Demonstrators take part in a protest against a partial coronavirus lockdown and against the government policy on Coolsingel street on November 19, 2021 in the port city of Rotterdam
Hundreds of people gather during a protest against the 2G (Covid-pass) policy in Coolsingel, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 19 November 2021
The Netherlands went back into Western Europe’s first partial lockdown of the winter last Saturday with the government announcing at least three weeks of curbs on restaurants, shops and sporting events.
The country has seen a string of record numbers of infections in recent days.
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.
Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police in The Hague after the measures were announced on November 12.
In January, rioting broke out in Rotterdam and other Dutch cities after the government announced a curfew in an attempt to rein in soaring coronavirus infections.
Earlier Friday, the government banned fireworks on Dec. 31 for the second straight year. The ban is intended ‘to prevent, as much as possible, extra strain on health care, law enforcement and first responders,’ the government said Friday.
The riots in Rotterdam come after Austria said on Friday that it will become the first country in western Europe to reimpose a full COVID-19 lockdown, while neighbouring Germany warned it may follow suit, sending shivers through financial markets worried about the economic fallout.
Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, accounting for half of global cases and deaths. A fourth wave of infections has plunged Germany, Europe’s largest economy, into a national emergency, Health Minister Jens Spahn said, warning that vaccinations alone will not cut case numbers.
Austria said it in addition to lockdown it would require the whole population to be vaccinated from Feb. 1. Both decisions infuriated many in a country where scepticism about state mandates affecting individual freedoms runs high, encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament.
Party leader Herbert Kickl posted a picture on Facebook with the inscription: ‘As of today Austria is a dictatorship.’
The party is planning a protest on Saturday, but Kickl cannot attend because he has tested positive for COVID-19.
Roughly two-thirds of those eligible in Austria are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.
Its infections are among the highest in Europe, with a seven-day incidence of 991 per 100,000 people.