OTTERLO: The Amsterdam police turned a water cannon on hundreds of protesters involved in Sunday’s banned rally against the Dutch government and its stern coronavirus lockout.
On a wide square surrounded by museums, including the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum, officers on horseback have rode in to break up the protest.
The municipality of Amsterdam said that riot police took steps to disperse the crowd because people did not adhere to policies of social distancing.
It is necessary for all to adhere to the measures in place, because of the risk to public health. As the municipality said in a tweet, the protesters are not doing that.
By mid-afternoon, aside from hundreds of officers, the square was empty, although several demonstrators stayed in the surrounding streets.
The demonstration was banned earlier in the week due to concerns that too many individuals would join and not adhere to social distance.
The rally in Amsterdam erupted as ministers of the Dutch government were gathering in The Hague to discuss ways to reel in the spread of the coronavirus, including the prospect of implementing a curfew for the first time since the pandemic started.
The cabinet resigned on Friday after the release of a scathing report into a scam involving thousands of parents being wrongly labelled by tax authorities as fraudsters, but the ministers remain in office until a new majority is established after a general election on March 17. The demonstrators held posters reading “Freedom: Stop this siege” and shouting “What do we want?” Uh, independence! ”.
None wore masks that are not obligatory, and few respected laws of social distancing.
An proposal for the rally to be held at Museum Square was rejected by the authorities. The demonstrators refused to leave when police told them to do so, and some threw fireworks.
Then the riot police used a water gun to attempt to disperse the crowd.
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In December, the government reopened schools and several retailers to try to curb a surge in cases involving Covid-19, and this week prolonged the lockdown for at least three more weeks.
The Netherlands was usually more hesitant than any of its neighbours to enforce social controls in the early days of the pandemic. But during the second winter surge, the rapid spread of diseases and the increasing burden on its hospitals forced its hand.