Dutch Prime Minister Calls Rioters 'Idiots' As COVID Vaccine Protests Turn Violent in EU

Authorities in the European Union are facing protests and backlash after enforcing more COVID-19 regulations, the Dutch Prime Minister calling rioters "idiots" for the violent riots calling for freedom, the Associated Press reported.

On Monday, authorities called for citizens to rest from violent protests, have patience and a willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccination as infection numbers have increased once again. The government leaders and EU officials announced that Monday that a return to pre-COVID days is still out of the question, and that some of the peaceful protests that turned violent were counterproductive.

And for those who turned the protests into violent riots, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte simply called them "idiots."

The protests started after the fourth wave of infections began locking down Austrians and forcing COVID-19 restraints in many European nations. Citizens are limited with new restrictions, which do not allow things such as working in offices and drinking at bars.

The civil unrest also comes from discontent with politicians who had promised that with vaccinations, freedom would come. As the delta variant brought on rising infection numbers, the EU governments decided to re-impose regulations and restrict non-vaccinated individuals.

"Not able to work where you want work, to be where you want to be. That's not what we stand for, that's not freedom," said Eveline Denayer, who was at Sunday's march in Brussels, which drew a crowd of over 35,000.

"We live in Western Europe and we just want to be free, how we were before," she said.

Protest marches from Zagreb to Rome and from Vienna to Brussels and Rotterdam gathered crowds of tens of thousands, some turning violent because of the new lockdown measures.

Friday night, police in Rotterdam used live fire to disperse rioters and four people suffered gunshot wounds at the riots. Altogether in both the Netherlands and Belgium, almost 100 individuals were detained. At the end of the Brussels protest, rioters pelted police, who then responded with tear gas and water cannons to break up the crowds. In riots across Belgium, youths threw fireworks at police officers.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Brussels COVID Vaccine Protest
Authorities in the European Union are facing protests and backlash after enforcing more COVID-19 regulations, the Dutch Prime Minister calling rioters “idiots” for the violent riots calling for freedom. A protestor lights a flare during a demonstration against the reinforced measures of the Belgium government to counter the latest spike of the coronavirus in Brussels, Belgium on November 21, 2021. Olivier Matthys/Associated Press

"I realize that there are a lot of tensions in society because we have been dealing with all the misery of coronavirus for so long," Rutte said. However, he stressed the rioters were something completely different, producing "a pure explosion of violence directed against our police, against our firefighters, against ambulance drivers."

"Our goal today is to fight against the virus. Please, let us not get incited by a small group which would turn it into a fight against one another," said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

The Dutch violence came a week into a new partial lockdown in the Netherlands and after an announcement that the government was banning fireworks on New Year's Eve in an effort to ease the strain on hospital emergency rooms.

"Of course, we see that the constraints with which we have been living for almost two years can be tiresome," said EU stokesperson Dana Spinant.

"But it's important from a community level to stick together and to follow those restrictions because that's the way out of the pandemic," she said.

The EU pointed out that scientific evidence shows that increased vaccinations would contain the crisis and avoid more deaths.

"You know the three words very well — vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate," said spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker.

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte
Friday night, police in Rotterdam used live fire to disperse rioters and four people suffered gunshot wounds at the riots. Altogether in both the Netherlands and Belgium, almost 100 individuals were detained. Above, Rutte talks to journalists as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, October 21, 2021. Olivier Hoslet/Pool Photo via AP, File