European cities are protesting against new restrictions to stop the pandemic

European cities are protesting against new restrictions to stop the pandemic

The mayor of Rotterdam defended the city’s police force after police opened fire on protesters when riots broke out during demonstrations against new restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19, injuring at least seven people.

More than 20 people were arrested Friday night as protesters threw stones at police and set fires in the Dutch city to show their dissatisfaction with new measures that will restrict access to places, including restaurants and shops for the unvaccinated, which will be in place at least three weeks.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, the mayor of Rotterdam, blamed the protesters for the “orgy of violence” because he justified the use of force to curb the situation.

“Police were forced to draw their weapons and even shoot directly,” Aboutaleb told reporters, adding that some police officers were injured and that more arrests were expected after analyzing security footage.

Ferd Grapperhaus, the Dutch Minister of Justice, said that “extreme violence” against the police and firefighters in the port city is repulsive.

“The right to protest is very important in our society, but what we saw last night was simple criminal behavior,” he added.

Policija je saopštila da su protesti prerasli u nerede. “Fires have been set in several places. Fireworks were set on fire and police fired several warning shots.

Police car set on fire during violence in Rotterdam © ANP / AFP via Getty Images

Local authorities said police units from across the Netherlands had been deployed to Rotterdam to restore order because they had issued an emergency declaration banning people from gathering in the area where the riots took place.

Following scenes of violence in Rotterdam, organizers of a planned protest in Amsterdam on Saturday said they had canceled the event. But another protest in the southern city of Breda against current measures to curb the spread of the virus, which include closing bars, restaurants and clubs at 8pm, should continue.

This is not the first time that violent epidemics have occurred in the Netherlands due to coronavirus restrictions. In January, rebels and police clashed on the streets of Rotterdam after curfew took effect.

Many European countries are reviving draconian restrictions to fight the spread of the coronavirus, as it continues to threaten to overwhelm health systems despite vaccination campaigns.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Vienna after the Austrian government announced a complete closure and a vaccination mandate. Germany rejected the blockade, but Jens Spahn, the health minister, spoke of a “state of emergency that requires combined national efforts”.

In central Vienna, mostly peaceful demonstrations of tens of thousands of protesters escalated into violence by mid-afternoon, with a small group of protesters throwing items at police, such as cans and beer bottles, and detonating smoke bombs and fireworks.

Protesters in Vienna, Saturday © AP

Policija je bila uključena u tuče s demonstrantima na Heldenplatzu — ispred bivše kraljevske palate — gdje su se demonstranti okupili nakon marširanja oko centralnog bečkog bulevara Ring.

In one incident, a protester tried to steal a weapon from a police holster.

Authorities estimate that about 35,000 people protested – the largest so far during the pandemic. The Austrian right-wing populist Freedom Party said the turnout was closer to 100,000.

By mid-afternoon, ten had been arrested, police said. Numerous crimes have also been registered under the Austrian Verbotsgesetz, a law banning Nazi symbols and propaganda. Several protesters were seen with yellow Jewish stars – apparently with the intention of comparing the need for injection and the horrors of Nazism.

Convicted neo-Nazi Gottfried Küssel, as well as the leader of the Austrian extreme right-wing identity movement, Martin Sellner, were spotted at the demonstrations.

Most of the demonstrators were from the political mainstream.

The outburst of rage, which has brought people of all ages from across the country to the capital, has been fueled by new comprehensive measures to combat the pandemic announced by the Austrian government on Friday.

According to them, Austria will become the first country in Europe – and only the fifth in the world – to make vaccination mandatory for all adults.

A general three-week closure in the country has also been announced, starting on Monday.

The seven-day average number of new infections in Austria per 100,000 inhabitants is more than three times higher than the EU-wide average, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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