A crowd of several thousand protesters gathered in Amsterdam on Sunday to protest the COVID-19 lockdown measures and vaccinations, despite a ban on holding public gatherings.
Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema issued an emergency ordinance, empowering police to clear the central Museum Square of protesters violating the ban.
"I don't agree with the government right now," 36-year-old protester Cornelie Venema told Reuters.
"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.
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.
Riot police with batons and shields at times tried to break up the crowd and scuffles broke out but the demonstration remained peaceful overall.
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.
"I have a company that sells pastries ... and for me, it is very important that I can open," Venema said. "I want to be open for my guests to come to me and to enjoy."
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.
"I had Covid and there were not much problems for me," 59-year-old home care worker Antal Buisman said. "So for me, I am not scared of this new virus, Omicron."