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Police open fire on anti-vax protestors in Netherlands after fireworks thrown at officers
20 November 2021, 12:33 | Updated: 21 November 2021, 08:18
Police have opened fire on anti-vaccine protestors in the Netherlands, and seven people have been injured in the violent riots.
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The city's major Ahmed Aboutaleb called the protest against Covid-19 restrictions in Rotterdam "an orgy of violence" and said it was "necessary" for police to use their weapons against demonstrators.
"On a number of occasions the police felt it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves," Mr Aboutaleb told reporters in the early hours of Saturday morning, as rioters rampaged through the port city's central shopping district, starting fires and throwing rocks and fireworks at officers.
"They shot at protesters, people were injured," he said.
He did not have details on the injuries, although he said a number of police officers were also hurt.
He said dozens of people had already been arrested, with more expected after video footage from security cameras had been viewed.
Photos from the scene showed at least one police car in flames and another with a bicycle slammed through its windscreen.
Riot police and a water cannon restored calm after midnight.
It was one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the Netherlands since coronavirus restrictions were first imposed last year.
In January, rioters also attacked police and set fires on the streets of Rotterdam after a curfew came into force.
Read more: When can I get my Covid-19 booster vaccine?
Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus condemned the events.
"The riots and extreme violence against police officers, riot police and firefighters last night in Rotterdam are disgusting to see," he said in a statement.
"Protesting is a great right in our society, but what we saw last night is simply criminal behaviour. It has nothing to do with demonstrating," he added.
Police units from around the country raced to Rotterdam to help bring Friday night's situation under control.
Local media reported that gangs of football hooligans were involved in the rioting.
An independent investigation into the shootings by police was opened, as is the case whenever Dutch police use their weapons.
The government has said it wants to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict the country's coronavirus pass system to only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 - that would exclude people who test negative.
The country has seen record numbers of infections in recent days and a new partial lockdown came into force a week ago.
Local political party Leefbaar Rotterdam condemned the violence in a tweet.
"The centre of our beautiful city has this evening transformed into a war zone," it said.
"Rotterdam is a city where you can disagree with things that happen but violence is never, never the solution."