Dutch COVID riots ‘pure violence’ by ‘idiots’: PM Rutte

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Rutte says the police and judiciary will do everything possible to find the perpetrators who, according to the PM, have “nothing to do with the demonstration”.

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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Root criticized the three nights of riots over anti-COVID measures, calling the unrest “pure violence” by “idiots” and vowed to prosecute those responsible.

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The prime minister said the riots in several cities across the country since Friday were “violence under the guise of protest”. He said he would always defend the right to protest, but “I will never accept that idiots use pure violence against the people … who keep this country safe,” he told Dutch media.

According to Rutte, the police and judiciary will do everything possible to find the perpetrators of the riots, which, according to the prime minister, “had nothing to do with the demonstration”.

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Police opened fire in Rotterdam and arrested around 145 people across the Netherlands in three days of unrest sparked by COVID restrictions. “People want to live,” said Jost Eras, one of the organizers of the Dutch protest. “That’s why we are here.”

Although it was not the first, it was one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the Netherlands since COVID restrictions were first imposed last year.

In January, rioters attacked and set fire to police in the streets of Rotterdam after the curfew was imposed.

It has been more than a week since the country went into Western Europe’s first partial lockdown this winter.

On Monday, Austria introduced the most dramatic COVID restrictions it has seen in months in Western Europe, with a complete lockdown.

Austria is also implementing a broad vaccine mandate from February 1, making it one of the few countries in the world to announce such a move so far.

A crowd of 40,000 marched through Vienna chanting “dictatorship” on Saturday, while about 6,000 people protested in the city of Linz on Sunday.

The Vienna rally was organized by a far-right political party, and some protesters wore a yellow star reading “Not Vaccinated”, imitating the Star of David the Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust.

Dr Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s head of emergencies, said: “Quite frankly, some countries are now in such a difficult situation that it will be difficult for them not to take preventive measures, at least for a short period of time. To reduce the intensity.”

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