By: Benjamin Turner, Staff Reporter, The Pawprint
Riots erupted across the Netherlands last weekend due to a new coronavirus lockdown implemented.
John Jorritsma, the mayor of Eindhoven which is the country’s fifth-largest city stated: “My city is crying, and so am I,”.
The sentiment is furious due to these riots, with Jorritsma referring to the rioters as “the scum of the Earth”, and warned the country it could be “on our way to civil war.”
The protests in nearly a dozen Dutch cities erupted from rejecting stricter measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, including a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. imposed by the government to protect the country from “the more contagious and perhaps deadlier U.K. variant of the coronavirus.”
The pandemic has left more than 13,700 people dead in the Netherlands, and around a million confirmed infections.
Taking a closer look at last weekend’s riots suggests that it was triggered by something more than frustration from the pandemic. While exasperation with the extended COVID-related hardships is genuine, the violence that tore across the Netherlands is evidence that political players with their own agendas are exploiting this crisis.
Right-wing politicians and, more alarmingly, extreme far-right organizations are both taking advantage of the pandemic and the Dutch government’s ongoing efforts to control the spread of the virus to disrupt the country’s democratic system, grow their ranks of supporters, and hone their skills at sparking violence.
The Dutch protests started last Saturday, as the deadline for the curfew approached, and continued into Monday. Gangs of youngsters started attacking police, throwing ignited fireworks, stones, and even knives. In the city of Enschede, rock-throwing rioters smashed hospital windows. In Urk, they torched a coronavirus testing site.
Across the country, including in Amsterdam, they engaged in clashes with police, while looting and destroying shops. Police have arrested hundreds of people. The mayhem spun so far out of control that authorities had to call in the military police to help calm down the situation.
The Dutch government’s response to the coronavirus has, in fact, been milder than many others in Europe—one of the reasons why the country has one of the highest infection rates in the world.
With the number of cases spiking and hospitals already filling up last fall, a poll back in October showed that two-thirds of the Dutch, in fact, wanted the government to tighten restrictions.
The government listened, enacting the first curfew since World War II. However, right-wing politicians have been criticizing the pandemic restrictions, as they have in the United States and elsewhere in Europe and around the world, hoping to boost their standing among citizens skeptical of the virus and chafing under public health guidelines.
This resulted in many groups being formed to help protest, including one called “Virus Truth” stating that “the coronavirus does not spread through close contact and advocates more hugging instead.”