THE HAGUE; A convoy of vehicles from all over the Netherlands brought the city center of The Hague to a halt on Saturday (May 14) as a protest against the COVID-19 restrictions.
Inspired by Canadian truck drivers overloading the capital Ottawa, several hundred vehicles blocked access to the Binnehof, the seat of the Dutch government, during the day, according to a report by public television.
After police warned protesters that they would be fined and arrested if they did not leave by mid-afternoon, the drivers withdrew.
“The demonstrators who blocked the city center with trucks… have now left,” the police posted on Twitter that evening.
The protesters had started arriving early in the morning in trucks, cars, tractors and even caravans.
Initially, they refused to leave, organizers said, until “fundamental and long-lasting change” was implemented and all COVID-19 restrictions were lifted across the country.
“The protest … is quietly coming to an end,” the organizers wrote on Telegram later that afternoon. “Tomorrow there’s another day.”
The Dutch news agency ANP said most left the area calmly, but minor skirmishes broke out after the trucks drove away.
“Police on horseback have dispersed a group of people and dealt blows…”, the report said. “At least two people have been arrested.”
Rutger van Lier, a 46-year-old entrepreneur, previously told AFP that the protest was “naturally inspired by Canada.
“There too, people are very unhappy with public policy,” he said.
Several other protesters previously said they would drive on to the Belgian capital Brussels, or even to Paris, where French police issued fines and fired tear gas on Saturday to disperse similar protests.
Some said they would be back in The Hague on Sunday.
The Canadian-style convoy is just the latest demonstration against the government’s anti-Covid restrictions in the Netherlands.
The anger turned into violence in January last year and again in November when riots broke out in The Hague and Rotterdam, among others.