Netherlands protest against COVID restrictions erupts into gunfire

Media TV Rotterdam via AP

In the United States, we’ve grown sadly accustomed to seeing protests turn violent and spin out of control into riots, particularly in the era of both the pandemic and social justice extremism. But those aren’t the sorts of scenes we’re used to seeing in some European nations like the Netherlands. That all changed this weekend, however, after the government announced a new series of lockdowns and stricter enforcement of immunity passport procedures in response to a recent surge in new COVID cases. In what’s being described as “an orgy of violence,” protesters began setting fires and attacking law enforcement officials last night in Rotterdam and The Hague. The police responded with gunfire, with multiple people being injured. Local elected officials appeared to be caught mostly off guard and were stunned at the results. Dozens of people were arrested. (Associated Press)

Police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured in rioting that erupted in downtown Rotterdam around a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions. The Dutch city’s mayor called it “an orgy of violence.”

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.

“They shot at protesters, people were injured,” Aboutaleb said. He did not have details on the injuries. Police also fired warning shots.

This wasn’t just a symbolic protest to be sure. Multiple police officers were injured and at least one was hospitalized after the rioters hurled stones and fireworks at them. Video emerged of one police car being on fire and another had a bicycle smashed through its windshield. Local news reports claimed that bands of “soccer hooligans” were involved in the attacks.

This brief video report from NBC News captures the action in Rotterdam quite well. As you will see, there are a lot of residents there who were not impressed by the curfew that had been issued or the new lockdown orders instructing them to remain in their homes.

The new restrictions that the government announced this week would expand the list of people that nonessential businesses will restrict from entry based on their immunity passports. Only those who can prove that they are fully vaccinated or have a doctor’s confirmation that they have recovered from the disease will be granted entry. A negative COVID test will no longer be accepted, nor will an antibody test. New curfews are in place in many areas, but it’s the immunity passports that seem to have most of the people up in arms.

While it was nowhere near this bad, the country did see some widespread protests back in January when they first introduced curfews. The situation eased considerably when infection rates dropped over the summer.

The Netherlands wasn’t the only place where these sorts of massive protests were taking place this weekend. Thousands of people took to the streets in Austria carrying signs decrying the authoritarian nature of the new lockdown that went into effect there. Fortunately, they haven’t engaged in similar levels of violence and destruction, or at least not yet. Italy and Croatia experienced similar uprisings yesterday.

Violence and destruction are never the answer, no matter what cause you are fighting for or against, so we shouldn’t cheer for the fires burning in Rotterdam. At the same time, however, it’s obvious that many other governments are slowly coming to the same realization that the American government has been far too slow to catch up on. There’s only just so much that any free people are going to be willing to tolerate. Using this virus as an excuse to lock people down in their homes, limit or prevent their free movement, and create preferred classes of citizens based on their vaccination status are actions that carry the very distinct smell of totalitarianism. And European nations have far sharper memories than even we in the United States do when it comes to abusive regimes. Can anyone look at this weekend’s events and truly say they are surprised?