Thousands of people, some throwing fireworks and stones, joined an unsanctioned protest against Dutch government restrictions on coronavirus in Amsterdam on Sunday, and police used riots, bats, attacked dogs and horses to disperse the riots.
According to local media, about a hundred have been arrested.
The protest came two days after the resignation of Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his cabinet over the way the Dutch tax authority treats innocent people involved in a child aid scandal.
Protesters gathered in a central square lined with landmarks, including the Van Gogh Museum and the US Consulate, and waved placards reading “dictatorship,”
The videos showed that no one wears masks – although this is not mandatory in the Netherlands outdoors – and no one maintains a social distance, one of the key health measures recommended by the Dutch authorities.
Like most of Europe, the Netherlands is in a closed position, in its case until at least 9 February. Infections are high but declining slightly, with about 34 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 population.
Protesters against the pandemic restrictions are a relatively small but vocal coterie of groups and individuals, and they have targeted Mr Rutte and his policies, as well as established media organizations. Like Trump loyalists who stormed the US Capitol, they believe the system must be eradicated.
“These people live in their own truth, with their own news and their own reality,” said Hans Nejenhuis, editor-in-chief of The Algemeen Dagblad, the largest newspaper in the Netherlands. “As we have seen in the United States, we cannot simply ignore their discontent.”
Michelle Rekinga’s Sunday protest, which drew supporters on Facebook, was rejected by authorities, who called for a ban on all gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
However, thousands gathered in Museumplain Square, urging the mayor of Amsterdam, the police and the Dutch prosecutor’s office to send the police to riot.
In the Netherlands, there were several protests during the pandemic against blockades and other pandemic measures, but there were others in support of the Black Lives movement.
On Sunday, some protesters spoke with disappointment about the restrictions.
“We want to party and go to clubs, we are so tired of all these measures,” a younger woman could be heard in a speech on the new Dutch television, Ongehoord Nederland.
The channel, described as a “patriotic news corner”, recently reached the threshold for access to subsidized Dutch public television, with 60,000 people registering as paid members.
“Traditional media claim that these people are stupid and crazy, but a demonstration like this is a sign of wider discontent,” said Arnold Carskens, the channel’s managing director.
Mr Karskens, who also opposed the bans on Black Pete, a controversial Dutch traditional figure in the blackface, said: “The truth is that people are tired of coronavirus measures. They feel that they have no end in sight. “