With riot police on strike, Amsterdam bans upcoming Covid lockdown protest
The city of Amsterdam, along with the local divisions of the police and Public Prosecution Service, announced it will ban a protest against the country’s coronavirus measures that was set to happen on Sunday. The demonstration was organized by Samen voor Nederland, or Together for the Netherlands in English, and was to take place at Museumplein.
Earlier, the organization said it expected 25,000 demonstrators, intends to march through the city. Despite the lockdown, the city and local authorities were willing to allow the demonstration on the conditions that a maximum of 3,500 people demonstrate, that no march takes place, and the event is of a limited duration. The maximum number of people was based on the city’s estimate of the number of people able to keep a distance of 1.5 meters from each other at the Museumplein.
The organization refused to cooperate by guaranteeing a safe and orderly demonstration, the city said. The protestors also announced that it indents to seek confrontation, and will not obey the coronavirus restrictions, according to the municipality.
The city also said that the police have strong indications that individuals and groups intend to disrupt public order on Sunday, and are prepared to use violence. They plan to intermingle with the legitimate protesters, the authorities said, something which happened at a demonstration against coronavirus rules in November in Rotterdam. That incident erupted in violence, with offenders throwing rocks and fireworks at police, and police officers firing their service weapons at rioters. Several were hurt in the violence, and hundreds of police officers were required to restore order.
"We are dealing with an exceptional situation due to the rapid advance of the Omicron variant and the lockdown we find ourselves in," said Mayor Femke Halsema. "Amsterdammers are staying at home as much as possible, entrepreneurs have had to close their businesses, theaters and cinemas are closed. The freedom to demonstrate is a great asset in Amsterdam and we have therefore made every effort to accommodate the organization. However, there is a threat they will create an irresponsible situation.”
The authorities issued an urgent appeal to the organization and other demonstrators not to come to Amsterdam. If they do not comply, they said they will be forced to intervene.
The ban on the demonstration comes a day after the police unions announced that the riot police will stop working during the demonstration in Amsterdam on Sunday. The intended labor action is part of the Wake-Up Call 2022 series of strikes by police union members to draw attention to police capacity problems The first labor strike was on Tuesday by officers working as Aliens Police in Ter Apel.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times