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Thousands protest in Amsterdam against Dutch coronavirus lockdown

Bethany Dawson
·1-min read
<p>Demonstrators face Dutch police at the Museumplein, in Amsterdam, on January 17, 2021</p> (Photo by ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Demonstrators face Dutch police at the Museumplein, in Amsterdam, on January 17, 2021

(Photo by ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of people have staged an unauthorised protest in Amsterdam against a national lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Riot police broke up demonstrators who gathered at a square in front of the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum art galleries carrying signs reading "Freedom: stop this siege" and chanting "What do we want? Freedom!".

More than 5,000 people had signalled their interest in attending the protest on social media, leading to officers pre-empting the start of the gathering.

Police used water cannon to try to disperse the gathering after 15 minutes.

Authorities had declined an application for the protest to be held on Museum Square. The demonstrators refused to leave when police told them to do so, and some threw fireworks.

Police had warned that the denied application meant no one was allowed on the museum square.

They also noted on Twitter that demonstrators were refusing to comply with public health orders such as the requirement to wear masks and keep 1.5 metres apart. There were reports that some of the protesters were hugging as a deliberate act of defiance.

“Go home and keep 1.5 meters away,” Amsterdam police force tweeted.

The Dutch government closed schools and most shops in December to try to stem a surge in Covid-19 cases. This week it extended the lockdown by at least 21 days.

In the early days of the pandemic, the Netherlands was generally more reluctant than most of its neighbours to impose social restrictions. But over the winter a second wave of cases it forced ministers’ hand by placing hospitals under huge pressure.

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