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Netherlands: Riots break out in Rotterdam over COVID-19 restrictions

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS – Police fired warning shots, injuring an unknown number, as riots broke out in Rotterdam city center on Friday evening during a protest against government plans to target to restrict the access of unvaccinated people to certain places.

Police said in a tweet that “there were gunshot wounds” during the violent unrest. Riot police used a water cannon in an attempt to drive hundreds of rioters from a central street in the port city.

A social media video posted on Dutch broadcaster NOS appears to show someone being shot in Rotterdam, but there was no immediate word on what happened.

Police said in a tweet that it was “still not clear how and by whom” the person was apparently shot.

Late Friday evening, police said Rotterdam city center remained restless and there was still a heavy police presence on the streets.

Police said they had arrested dozens of rioters and expected to arrest more. They said about seven people were injured, including police officers. They did not give more details.

Photos in Dutch media showed at least one police car on fire and another with a bicycle smashed through the windshield.

Local political party Leefbaar Rotterdam condemned the violence in a tweet.

“The center of our beautiful city has turned into a war zone tonight,” he said. “Rotterdam is a city where you can disagree with the things that happen, but violence is never, ever, the solution.”

Police said in a tweet that rioters started fires and launched fireworks during the riots and that authorities closed the city’s main train station.

Local media say football hooligan gangs were involved in the riots.

The government has said it wants to introduce a law that would allow companies to restrict the country’s coronavirus pass system to only people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19 – which would exclude people whose the test is negative.

The country has seen a record number of infections in recent days and a new partial lockdown went into effect a week ago.

In January, riots broke out in Rotterdam and other Dutch cities after the government announced a curfew in an attempt to curb the surge in coronavirus infections.

Earlier on Friday, the government banned fireworks on December 31 for the second year in a row. The ban is “to prevent, as much as possible, additional pressure on health care, law enforcement and first responders,” the government said on Friday.


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