Some 400 arrests around Hague protest against coronavirus measures

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Dutch police officers (Stock Photo: Politie)Dutch police officers (Stock Photo: Politie)

The police arrested around 400 people around a protest against coronavirus measures on the Malieveld in The Hague on Sunday. The detainees are suspected of various crimes including not following police orders, throwing stones and trying to storm Den Haag Centraal. A large group were written up and released from custody by Sunday evening, a police spokesperson confirmed to NU.nl, but could not give exact figures.

The protest, organized by Virus Waanzin, was banned on Friday by acting mayor Johan Remkes, who cited various safety concerns. A court confirmed this decision. But on Sunday morning, the mayor gave permission for a short demonstration until 1:30 p.m., provided that protesters adhere to social distancing measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The demonstration started out relatively quiet and orderly, but the number of demonstrators quickly grew from a few hundred to thousands. Participants did not stay 1.5 meters apart, according to the police. At 1:30 p.m., the police ordered protesters to leave, but not all of them responded. During the course of the afternoon, the demonstration split into two group - peaceful protesters and people seeking confrontation with the police, according to NU.nl. 

The police eventually took action on the Malieveld, using charges and a water canon to disperse protesters, according to the newspaper. At around 4:30 p.m. the police gave a final instruction for the protesters to leave the Malieveld. Those who did not listen, were surrounded and arrested. At least a hundred people were detained there. 

Arrests were also made elsewhere in the city. Eight protesters were arrested earlier in the day, including one carrying a Samurai sword. Five people were arrested near Central Station for throwing stones. The riot police clashed with a group of apparent football supporters storming the central station. 

In a statement, the municipality of The Hague said that the police had information that "different groups of troublemakers", including football hooligans, went to The Hague from other regions to interfere with the demonstration. Mayor Remkes described the day as restless. "This has nothing to do with demonstrating or freedom of speech. This group was deliberately seeking to disturb public order. The police had to intervene several ties. I am grateful to the police for their efforts."

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