Police prepare for rioting at banned Hague anti-lockdown protest

Police surround the J.P. Coen statue in Hoorn
Police surround the J.P. Coen statue in Hoorn. 19 June 2020Gemeente Hoorn

The anti-lockdown group Viruswaanzin is set to go ahead with a planned demonstration on the Malieveld in The Hague on Sunday despite the protest having been banned by the municipality, the group's leader Willem Engel has asserted. According to a Friday post on Facebook, Viruswaanzin leaders are calling on the group to show up anyway as individuals and not organized in an attempt to find a loophole in acting mayor Johan Remkes' order for the group not to assemble.

Aside from Viruswaanzin, police were concerned about a second weekend of violence by thuggish football supporters. In response, the police were planning to set up a new command post for quickly assembling and dispatching special tactical for situations that have the potential to escalate out of control, the head of the Oost-Brabant police, Wilbert Paulissen, told the Telegraaf. "Let one thing be clear: demonstration is a fundamental right, but we do not tolerate riots," Paulissen said.

"It was already unnerving with the farmer protests before the coronavirus period, but now that society is opening up again it is getting even more restless. You have the people who oppose the coronavirus measures, the Black Lives Matter movement and people who are looking for entertainment by simply going somewhere and rioting."

Viruswaanzin, which has aroused controversy in recent days, launched a similar demonstration in The Hague last Sunday. While the demonstration itself was largely peaceful, with many largely ignoring social distancing rules, there were incidents of rioting in The Hague following the protest. The events of the day resulted in the arrests of some 400 people for a slew of crimes including violating police orders, throwing stones and trying to storm Den Haag Centraal.

The demonstrators who caused the unrest later earned the ire of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who came out the following day to decry those responsible for the violence as having been "coked-up hooligans". Aside from The Hague, last week also saw similar violence in Helmond, and attempts by non-demonstrators to trigger rioting in Hoorn at a protest against the glorification of the Dutch colonialist era.

The leaders of Sunday's scheduled protest appear to be adamant that people will show up in spite of the ban, with Engel claiming in a video message on the Viruswaanzin Facebook page that the protest cannot be stopped. "This is our country and it is over. This nonsense is over. We will demonstrate on Sunday at the Malieveld. Not on behalf of Viruswaanzin, but in the spirit of Viruswaanzin," declared Engel.

Engel also added that Viruswaanzin had filed a new lawsuit against the municipality on the issue of being allowed to assemble, according to newspaper AD. However, the group did not allude to any further details on the matter.

The scheduled demonstration is set to go ahead from 1 until 5 p.m. on Sunday, according to the Facebook group.