Amsterdam fears Covid protest violence Sunday; Sets up stop-and-search zones
The leaders of the city of Amsterdam and the local divisions of the police and Public Prosecution Service have designated several locations as safety risk areas on Sunday. The locations are where protestors will assemble under the banner, “Commemoration of the Coffee Battle,” a reference to the January 17, 2021, demonstration which turned into a riot.
The police believe people will again attempt to bring illegal fireworks and weapons to the protests on Sunday. To ensure that the protest runs safely, the Oosterpark, Westerpark and Olympic Stadium, the places where the participants will gather, as well as the Museumplein, have been designated as a safety risk area. This means that everyone in those areas may be searched at random as a preventative measure.
The municipality said that agreements were made "in close consultation with the organization" to ensure that the demonstration takes place peacefully and responsibly. "The organizer distanced himself from groups and individuals who are out for a confrontation with the police," said a press release.
Mayor Femke Halsema also issued an urgent appeal to the demonstrators to comply with the regulations, to follow directions from traffic controllers and the police, and to leave the demonstration location if there is a threat of disturbances or violence both for their own safety and that of others. If people do not follow the rules, the police will intervene.
A banned demonstration against the coronavirus measures organized on January 17 last year on Amsterdam's Museumplein, was reorganized by its organizer as a moment for people to meet up for coffee. The thinly-veiled attempt to avoid being labeled an illegal protest drew about a thousand people to the area.
Riot police stood their ground in the area as police received indications that as many as 10,000 would arrive. People showed up from all over the Netherlands, protesting against the lockdown, the curfew implemented that month, and the Cabinet of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Some also peddled conspiracy theories about Covid-19, vaccines, and 5G mobile networks.
When authorities asked people to leave, many in the crowd refused. Police were given permission to clear the Museumplein, and drive people into surrounding streets. Water cannons, riot police, and mounted police pushed into the crowd. Nearly 150 people were arrested in total.
“Among the demonstrators was a group of 200 to 250 people who were clearly out for confrontation. Bricks were removed from the street and thrown at officers. Some also had fighting gloves, handheld weapons and fireworks with them,” the city said in a statement that day.
Now one year later, Nederland in Verzet organized “The commemoration of the Coffee Battle.” From three places in the capital, people will walk to the Museumplein on Sunday afternoon to “drink coffee” together.
The participants will gather at around noon at the Olympic Stadium, Oosterpark and Westerpark and then walk to Museumplein. From there they will continue through the city together. The organization expects 25,000 to 50,000 people.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times