Three people were hospitalized in Rotterdam on Saturday after being seriously injured when Dutch police fired during a violent protest against COVID19 measures, authorities said.
Crowds of several hundred rioters set cars on fire, set off fireworks and threw stones at police during the Friday night protests.
Police responded with warning shots and fire hydrants. Rotterdam police posted on Twitter on Saturday that 51 people had been arrested, half of them under the age of 18.
Three rioters were injured when they were shot, remain in hospital, ”police added, in an update after previously reporting two injured.
Authorities are investigating the shootings, including whether the injured people were shot.
The city’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, said the demonstration had turned into “an orgy of violence.” The police were forced to draw their weapons and even fire direct shots, “he said. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Dutch Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said in a statement that the “extreme violence” against the police and firefighters in Rotterdam was “disgusting”.
“The right to protest is very important in our society, but what we saw last night was just criminal behavior,” Grapperhaus said.
Protesters gathered to voice their opposition to government plans to restrict access to indoor areas to people with a “crown pass” proving they have been vaccinating or have been vaccinated.
The pass is also available for people who have not been vaccinated but have a negative test. Small pockets of unrest erupted in several towns in the Netherlands on Saturday evening as young people clashed with police.
In the Hague riot, police used water cannons to clear part of the central area of Schilderswijk after rioters threw fireworks at police and damaged traffic lights, local police said on Twitter.
There has been a heavy police presence in many other major cities following social media uprising calls in the wake of the Rotterdam riots, but any further violence has been largely contained, with only a handful of arrests, according to the Dutch media.
The organizers of a protest against coronavirus measures planned in Amsterdam on Saturday said they canceled the event after the violence on Friday.
Even so, several thousand demonstrators marched around the city’s central square. The march was kept peaceful and monitored.
The Netherlands reintroduced some lockdown measures for the first three weeks last weekend to contain the resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the pandemic began.