Dutch PM Lashes Out At ‘Idiots’ After Third Night Of Violence

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte lambasted the “idiot” rioters who stormed through the country’s cities this weekend after protests against COVID-19 restrictions turned violent. Citizens throughout the country set fire to cars and threw rocks and fireworks at police officers in a dramatic display of frustration with the disruptions that the pandemic has made to everyday life.

“This was pure violence disguised as protest,” Rutte said. “There is a lot of unrest in society because we have been dealing with the misery of corona for so long. But I will never accept idiots using pure violence just because they are unhappy.” In an interview with the BBC shortly after rioters fought with police, organizer Ricardo Pronk justified the movement. “The violence is needed because there needs to be a change,” he said. In a statement, Justice Minister Fred Grapperhaus echoed the Prime Minister’s sentiments, saying “The riots and extreme violence against police officers, riot police and firefighters last night in Rotterdam are disgusting to see, protesting is a great right in our society, but what we saw last night is simply criminal behaviour. It has nothing to do with demonstrating.”

The most extreme violence took place in Rotterdam, where over 50 protestors, about half of them minors, were arrested. As rioters rampaged through the city’s central shopping district, police drew their weapons to defend themselves. Three rioters were wounded when they were hit with rubber bullets. Protests also occurred in The Hague, where five officers were injured.

The riots were initially sparked by government plans to ban unvaccinated citizens from most public places. In the past month, the number of COVID-19 infections, especially among children, has surged within the country, forcing some hospitals to scale back treatment. Currently, 84% of the Dutch population is vaccinated.

The Netherlands has grappled with the backlash of pandemic restrictions before. In January, the country was wracked with violence after the government instituted an evening curfew for all residents. After three nights of riots, over 300 people were arrested.

As the pandemic drags on, violent outbursts like that of last weekend will become more common. This must not scare governments away from taking the necessary precautions needed to curb the spread of the virus. As to the future, much remains unknown. This past Sunday, 13 passengers on a flight to the Netherlands tested positive for the new Omicron variant. This variant may be less deadly than the Delta variant, and it may render vaccination less effective. Until more is known, the Netherlands’ fight against the virus remains up in the air.