EU in flames: Netherlands lockdown riots set to cause ‘civil war’ – panicked mayor warns

Rotterdam: Riot police swarm streets as fireworks set off

Dutch police detained more than 150 people in the third night of unrest in cities across the Netherlands, where roaming groups of rioters set fires, threw rocks and looted stores in violence triggered by a night curfew aimed at curbing the coronavirus. John Jorritsma, mayor of Eindhoven, warned the country was “on our way to civil war”.

He said on Sunday night: “My city is crying, and so am I.”

He added: “I am afraid that if we continue down this path, we’re on our way to civil war.”

The nation’s first curfew since World War Two followed a warning by the National Institute for Health (RIVM) over a new wave of infections due to the “British variant” of the virus, and was imposed despite weeks of declines in new infections.

Ten police were injured in the port city of Rotterdam, where 60 rioters were detained overnight, Dutch news agency ANP said on Tuesday.

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Two photographers were hurt after being targeted by rock-throwing gangs, one in the capital, Amsterdam, and another in the nearby town of Haarlem, broadcaster NH Nieuws said.

In the capital’s east, at least nine people were held after clashes with riot police. Store windows were smashed and an angry group attacked a police van, witnesses said.

Schools and non-essential shops have been shut since mid-December, after bars and restaurants were closed two months prior.

The death toll in the Netherlands stands at 13,579, with 952,950 infections to date.

The motivation behind incidents in Rotterdam and in the southern city of Geleen on Monday was not immediately clear, but rioters were overwhelmingly in their teens and twenties.

News agency ANP reported that police on horseback in Rotterdam had charged at a group of about 50 youths. In Geleen, images showed youths running from police shortly before the night’s curfew was due to go into effect.

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Prime Minister Mark Rutte earlier on Monday had condemned the riots over the weekend in which demonstrators attacked police and set fires.

The curfew, the first in the country since World War Two, was imposed after the National Institute for Health (RIVM) warned a new wave of infections is on its way due to the “British variant” of COVID-19, though numbers of new infections in the Netherlands have been declining for weeks. Some 4,129 new cases were reported on Monday, the lowest number since December 1.

There is a fine of €95 (£84) for anyone caught breaking the curfew.

“This has nothing to do with protest, this is criminal violence and we will treat it as such,” Mr Rutte told reporters outside his office in The Hague.

The police trade union NPB said there could be more protests ahead as people grow more frustrated with the months-long lockdown.

“We haven’t seen so much violence in 40 years,” union board member Koen Simmers said on television program Nieuwsuur.

Protesters have also taken to the streets of Paris and other cities in France over the past few weeks.

President Emmanuel Macron was condemned over the rise of mental health problems caused by the harsh coronavirus restrictions.

The protest was organised by French students in a bid to raise awareness on the issue.

Heïdi Soupault from Strasbourg sent a letter to President Emmanuel Macron outlining her despair at the current situation in France.

“I’m 19 years old and I feel like I’m dead,” it said.

“I no longer have dreams. If we have no hope or prospects for the future at 19, what do we have left?”

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