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Dutch police disperse thousands protesting against lockdown measures

Opponents of restrictions imposed in the Netherlands to contain the spread of COVID-19 protest despite a ban by local authorities, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on January 2, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Riot police with batons and shields tried to break up a crowd of several thousand who had gathered in the Dutch capital on Sunday to protest against COVID-19 lockdown measures and vaccinations.

Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema issued an emergency ordinance, empowering police to clear the central Museum Square, after the protesters violated a ban on holding public gatherings during the latest wave of coronavirus infections.

The protesters, who mostly did not wear masks and broke social distancing rules, also ignored an order not to hold a march and walked along a main thoroughfare, playing music and holding yellow umbrellas in a sign of opposition to the government measures.

Also on Saturday, Dutch police broke up a rave party in breach of COVID rules that was attended by hundreds in a disused factory, local media reported.

Opponents of restrictions imposed in the Netherlands to contain the spread of COVID-19 protest despite a ban by local authorities, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on January 2, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Dozens of police officers entered the makeshift venue in the central town of Rijswijk with hundreds more mobilized to shepherd people away, NOS television said.

Several partygoers were arrested but there was no violence, according to local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland.

The illegal rave attracted people from far and wide with locals saying they had seen vehicles come in from France and Germany but also as far away as Spain and Italy.

"It is an illegal party so it is banned," tweeted local mayor Josan Meijers.

"It is not appropriate at a time of the coronavirus crisis. (Health) measures apply to everybody," added Meijers.

The Netherlands went into a sudden lockdown on Dec. 19, with the government ordering the closure of all but essential stores, as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places until at least Jan. 14.

Public gatherings of more than two people are prohibited under the current set of restrictions.

Like other European countries, the Netherlands imposed the measures in an effort to prevent a fresh wave of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that could overwhelm an already strained healthcare system.

Opponents of restrictions imposed in the Netherlands to contain the spread of COVID-19 protest despite a ban by local authorities, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on January 2, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Despite a nationwide ban on New Year fireworks a number went ahead regardless, with one 12-year-old child killed and another seriously injured in an accident at one event.

In France, police moved in to book revellers attending an illegal rave which attracted some 1,500 people overnight to the small central eastern town of Saint-Florentin some two hours drive from Paris.

A local prefecture source said police had secured the site and were carrying out drugs tests, adding the local prosecutor's office was investigating.

(Source: Agencies)


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