Protests have erupted across Europe in response to COVID-19 restrictions: NPR – Community News
Covid-19

Protests have erupted across Europe in response to COVID-19 restrictions: NPR

A man walks in front of a fire in a street in The Hague during a demonstration against the corona measures of the Dutch government on November 20, 2021.

DANNY KEMP/AFP via Getty Images


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A man walks in front of a fire in a street in The Hague during a demonstration against the corona measures of the Dutch government on November 20, 2021.

DANNY KEMP/AFP via Getty Images

A resurgence of COVID-19 restrictions in a number of countries has sparked protests, with some demonstrations turning violent and leading to dozens of arrests.

On Saturday evening, the Netherlands saw protests in The Hague, during which protesters, according to the police, set fires throughout the area, defaced property and pelted agents with stones and fireworks. The outage lasted until about 1am and police took 19 people into custody before the night was over.

That demonstration also ended with five injured, according to the Associated Press. One officer suffered a knee injury and concussion, and others suffered hearing damage, police said Twitter.

Other COVID-related protests also took place across the Netherlands on Saturday, including in the cities of Amsterdam, Breda and Katwijk. In Alkmaar and Almelo, fans broke into two football matches, defying recent lockdown orders, the AP reported.

The protests followed a chaotic night in Rotterdam

The night before, protests broke out in the Dutch city of Rotterdam with hundreds of people in attendance. According to local authorities, demonstrators threw stones at officers on patrol, in addition to setting off fireworks. As events got mixed up, authorities issued an emergency order and attempted to clear the area using a water cannon, officials said. Some attendees also reportedly set fire to police cars and damaged property.

The protests are in response to a partial three-week lockdown announced last weekend following a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, the mayor of Rotterdam, said police “deemed it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves,” according to an Associated Press report. Three protesters were shot and are currently being treated at a hospital, police said in a statement. Authorities also claimed they fired warning shots initially and officers were also injured; one had to be hospitalized for a leg injury and another had to be treated by a paramedic.

Police arrested 51 people Friday on charges of public assault, incitement and violation of the emergency ordinance, and about half of those arrested were minors, authorities said.

Friday’s activities sparked criticism from Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus.

“Last night’s riots and extreme violence against police officers, riot police and firefighters in Rotterdam are disgusting to watch,” he said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press. He added: “Protesting is a great right in our society, but what we saw last night is just criminal behavior. It has nothing to do with demonstrating.”

Thousands of protesters opposing the pandemic legislation being tabled in the Victorian Parliament can be seen holding placards and flags at Flagstaff Gardens on Nov. 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.

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Thousands of protesters opposing the pandemic legislation being tabled in the Victorian Parliament can be seen holding placards and flags at Flagstaff Gardens on Nov. 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.

Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Frustration on the rise in parts of Europe

The protests in the Netherlands are reminiscent of what has been happening in many other countries in Europe in recent days. In Austria, citizens have protested the government’s recent decision to impose a nationwide lockdown from Monday, as well as plans to make vaccinations mandatory in February.

Thousands took part in a demonstration in Vienna on Saturday, which saw about 35,000 people gathered in the city’s Heroes’ Square, The Guardian reports.

Days earlier, hundreds of protesters had gathered outside the Austrian embassy in France, Reuters said. Meanwhile, on the island of Guadeloupe, a French territory, rioters have set fire to the streets, fired on police, destroyed property and looted business premises, prompting French officials to deploy about 50 members of their special forces to restore order in the country. the island, according to an Al Jazeera report.

In Belgium, police estimated that some 35,000 people gathered for a protest at a train station in Brussels on Sunday. However, events turned hectic, with protesters throwing objects at officers and police and resorting to water cannons and tear gas on the crowd, Politico reports. Italy and Croatia have also been the site of demonstrations related to COVID restrictions, and in Melbourne, Australia, heated protests against vaccine mandates are entering their second day.

Officials warn of another rise in deaths

Amid the backlash, some health officials worry that many countries will need to brace for even more COVID-related deaths. dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, World Health Organization regional director for Europe, said earlier this month that Europe and Central Asia are once again “at the epicenter” of the COVID-19 pandemic. He warned that negligence could lead to half a million deaths early next year.

“We are at another critical point of pandemic revival. Europe is back at the epicenter of the pandemic, where we were a year ago,” Kluge warned. “The difference today is that we know more and can do more. We have more tools and resources to limit and reduce the damage to our communities and society.”