131 arrested on ‘calmer’ night during virus curfew in Netherlands

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Dutch police have said the fourth night of the Netherlands’ coronavirus curfew passed more peacefully than the previous three nights, which were marred by rioting.

Even so, officers arrested 131 people, mainly for public order offences and incitement.

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“It was calmer around the curfew on Tuesday night than the days before,” police said in a statement.

Underscoring the role of young people, who have been forced to stay home from school for weeks due to the country’s tough lockdown, police said that most suspects arrested for inciting riots using social media were aged under 18.

A man cleans up broken glass from the smashed windows in a fast-food restaurant in Rotterdam (Peter Dejong/AP)

The rioting has rocked the Netherlands, which has a caretaker government after Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling coalition resigned earlier this month over a scandal involving child welfare benefit fraud investigations. The pandemic is expected to be a key campaign issue before a general election scheduled for March 17.

Neighbouring Belgium has expressed fears that the unrest could spread, with calls for protests against the country’s tough lockdown and its 9pm curfew mounting on social media. The Dutch curfew, which began on Saturday, also begins at 9pm.

“The violent demonstrations that degenerated in the Netherlands have apparently incited certain people to call, also in our country, for demonstrations against the health measures,” Belgian interior minister Annelies Verlinden’s office said.

Belgium, host of the headquarters for the 27-nation EU, has had one of Europe’s worst outbreaks. The nation of 11 million has seen more than 20,800 confirmed virus deaths. The Dutch confirmed death toll is approaching 14,000.

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