Covid: Thousands protest in Amsterdam against lockdown measures despite ban

Police had indications some demonstrators might be planning to attend 'prepared for violence'

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Thousands of people in the capital of the Netherlands have defied a ban and gathered for a demonstration against the Dutch government’s coronavirus lockdown measures, before police pushed them away from Amsterdam’s Museum Square.

The local government had outlawed the protest, saying police had indications some demonstrators might be planning to attend “prepared for violence”. The municipality later issued an emergency order for people to leave Museum Square, and riot police marched across the grass to clear the area, sending the demonstrators into nearby streets.

A person holds up a banner as opponents of restrictions imposed in the Netherlands to contain the spread of Covid-19 protest despite a ban by local authorities, in Amsterdam, Netherlands
A person holds up a banner as opponents of restrictions imposed in the Netherlands to contain the spread of Covid-19 protest despite a ban by local authorities, in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Before officers moved in, some participants unfurled a banner that read “Less repression, more care” near the Van Gogh Museum. A group of people in white overalls and masks held up signs, including one that read on one side: “It’s not about a virus, it’s about control” and on the other “Freedom”.

"I don't agree with the government right now," 36-year-old protester Cornelie Venema said.

"The problem here in the Netherlands is that we don't have enough capacity in the hospitals ... so maybe we should solve that problem and not put everybody inside their houses," she added.

There was a heavy police presence in the square and in nearby streets. The municipality designated the area as a security risk region, giving police the authority to frisk people preventatively.

The demonstration took place on the same day Dutch police said they would take action to protest against the increasing demands of their work. Union representatives have said, however, that riot police would continue to work if necessary.

Coronavirus infection rates have been gradually decreasing for several weeks in the Netherlands, which reintroduced lockdown measures in November and tightened them further during the holiday season.

The signs read "Where is your limit", "It stops if we say no" and "It's not about the virus but about control".
The signs read "Where is your limit", "It stops if we say no" and "It's not about the virus but about control".

The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases edged slightly lower over the past week to 85.55 new cases per 100,000 people even as the Omicron mutation became the nation’s dominant variant.

Under the lockdown, all non-essential shops are closed along with bars, restaurants and venues such as museums, theatres and cinemas.

In November, a coronavirus demonstration erupted into violent rioting in Rotterdam and demonstrations in Museum Square have ended in confrontations between police and protesters who ignored orders to leave the area.