The Dutch Curfew Riots Were Chaos… Here’s What We Know

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Following the imposition of a 9 p.m. curfew, riots broke out across the Netherlands in many cities including Amsterdam. Here’s what’s known so far… 

The past year has seen many riots break out in the streets, and though we thought that the protest and violent days would be left in 2020, it doesn’t seem that way so far. COVID-19 waves have prompted governments to be more strict on when people can roam the streets. Though upwards of 13,000 people have died from COVID-19 and around 1 million have tested positive in the country, the Netherlands has tended to be quite lenient in regards to their COVID-19 regulations so the violent result of the curfew was not expected.

But the country has become a mess of unexpected civil uproar as riots broke out in the streets, graffiti artists tagged businesses’ walls with angry texts and people began to take stands against the police. Many civilians retreated into their homes in confusion as the commotion erupted outside, whereas many others curiously roamed to get a glimpse of what was happening—some even joined in.

It was absolute chaos. Rioters all over—especially in Amsterdam—clashed with the police who ended up using dogs, horses, even tear gas and water cannons to combat the rioters’ fireworks and explosives. Unfortunately, some innocent bystanders were also injured. After police blasted a water cannon, Denisa Štastná took a blow to the head and ended up with a fractured skull. Amsterdam wasn’t the only city in the Netherlands affected by the craziness.

Denisa being helped up after being hit by a water cannon stream.
Photo from

Rotterdam was hit by those outraged, too. A large theater had been destroyed by a fire and according to Rotterdam police, they arrested a 14-year-old and two other young teens after one of them allegedly released a video that served as evidence to them starting the blaze. 

A fire erupts at a Rotterdam pavilion.
Photo by Marco de Swart EPA via ANP

A video circulated on the internet showing the young suspect supposedly beginning the fire. The pavilion was located in a small children’s amusement park, the Plaswijckpark, which happens to be home to both attractions and live animals. 

Police noted that Wednesday was mostly peaceful in Rotterdam—excluding the fire incident. However, that wasn’t the case in other towns.

In the city of Leiden, young teenagers were caught and arrested due to carrying explosives and white spirit—also known as mineral turpentine that is used as petroleum and paint thinner, according to Oxford Dictionary. Den Haag police stated that these three teenagers were carrying nitrate and benzene on them. Further, in the city of Nijmegen, a man and a woman were spotted and arrested for filling bottles with petrol with an intention to riot.

Even lesserknown cities and towns were affected. Rioters in Enschede attempted to break windows of a hospital, a clothing store in Tilburg was destroyed after a firework bomb exploded inside and even in Urk—a tiny fishing town—a testing facility for COVID was set on fire. 

A police officer sweeps up glass from a bus stop that got smashed in Rotterdam.
Photo by Peter Dejong from

The Dutch society was shaken by the uproar of events, especially considering political unrest isn’t extreme or polarized in the country. The protests began on Saturday, Jan. 23, following the 9 p.m. curfew that was implemented the day before. Understandably, COVID-19 has created a range of emotions for everyone, some choosing to act out. This reaction was completely unexpected considering the Dutch tend to be pretty chill so it’s likely because the Dutch government is known for being more lenient and easygoing with COVID-19 rules compared to other countries, the citizens just weren’t used to the sudden harsh laws. According to World Politics Review, this is the first time the Dutch have set a curfew since World War II.

Riot in Eindhoven with a fire blazing in the background.
Photo by Thomas Bakker

So What’s to Come?

Other groups have began cleaning up the streets and as of now, no more riots have broken out. Many were arrested and charged after causing damage to buildings and stirring up fear in the public.


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