Dutch police open fire amid COVID-19 protest violence

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Nov. 20 (UPI) — Dutch police opened fire on people protesting pandemic-related restrictions in Rotterdam, injuring at least two people, law enforcement officials said Saturday.

The protests, which the Rotterdam police deemed a riot, broke out along Coolsingel street in central Rotterdam on Friday.

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Police said the demonstrations turned violent, with protesters throwing rocks and fireworks at officers, and setting police cars on fire. Police responded by opening fire and using a water cannon, injuring at least seven people, including two by gunfire.

The Rotterdam police said multiple officers sustained minor injuries and one had to be hospitalized for an injury to his leg.

Officers arrested 51 people, about half of whom were underage. Participants traveled to the city from various parts of the country.

Officials called on citizens to share video and photos from the protests with the police department so they can identify more participants.

The demonstrations took place in response to a new three-week lockdown announced in the Netherlands over rising COVID-19 cases. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte advised restaurants, super markets and non-essential retailers to close early and impose social distancing measures.

Ferdinand Grapperhaus, the minister of security and justice, called the riots “horrific to see.” He said he had “deep respect” for police, firefighters and other emergency services officials to responded to the violence.

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The Netherlands reported more than 94,000 new cases the week of Nov. 14, the highest weekly figure since the start of the pandemic. Deaths for the same time period were 174, though, far short of the high of 999 weekly deaths reported in April 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker.