NL – Dozens of people were arrested and several people were injured in clashes between police and citizens at the end of King’s Day. Tensions began to rise in a few cities after authorities began closing off areas due to overcrowding, on a holiday which brought almost constant sunshine one day before the first significant relaxation of lockdown restrictions in the Netherlands was to occur.
People “pretended that coronavirus no longer existed,” said Eric Lakenman who leads an association of street enforcement security workers.
The large gatherings that took place are “really worrying,” said prominent virologist Marion Koopmans. She said the desire to reopen society was understandable, but, “We couldn’t afford this much,” she told NOS.
In Amsterdam, police arrested about fifty people in total on King’s Day, including nine for public violence. Earlier in the afternoon officers evacuated portions of the Vondelpark. Later, police were dispatched to clear hundreds of people from the Westerstraat, where three officers were slightly injured, a statement from the city said. The Westerpark was also evacuated later that night.
Other city center areas where police were called to break up groups of celebrants included the Bloemgracht and Wolvenstraat. Riot police were sent to those areas and to the Leidseplein when people began to act menacingly toward street enforcement teams, and some brawling was reported.
According to the municipality, visitors didn’t adhere to the coronavirus measures, ignored the warnings and some of them also behaved aggressively towards police officers. The Vondelpark, Oosterpark and Sarphatipark will remain closed at least until Thursday morning.
“It turns out that discipline was hard to find at many times, especially in the big cities,” said police union leader Gerrit van de Kamp on Goedemorgen Nederland. “In many places it was nice and relatively quiet, but in many large cities there have been major problems.”
A party in Oudemirdum in Friesland led to the arrests of seven people. Dozens of people were caught partying in a wooded area off Beukenlaan, where revelers set a campfire. The mayor there ordered the area evacuated after the partiers refused to leave on their own, in part because of a risk of wildfires.
The situation became more aggressive as officers moved in, police said on Twitter. One officer was slightly injured. Several police vehicles were also damaged.
At least one person was arrested when police broke up groups in the Wilhelminapark in Breda, where 40 people were fined for violating coronavirus restrictions. Similar scenes were reported in Deventer, Eindhoven, Haarlem, and Leiden.
In Arnhem, about two thousand people showed up for a scheduled protest against the Cabinet and its coronavirus policies. Organizers had worked out a plan with the city in advance that only 500 would be allowed to attend due to social distancing restrictions.