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MAASTRICHT, Netherlands (ChurchMilitant.com) - Violent protests against new draconian COVID lockdowns have rocked the Netherlands, with rioters turning Dutch cities into war zones as tens of thousands of protestors demonstrated earlier in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Spain.
Riots beginning Saturday flared up across Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Enschede, Zwolle, Helmond, Haarlem, 's-Hertogenbosch, Venlo, Maastricht and The Hague, with rioters burning down a COVID-19 testing center in the "Bible belt" of Urk.
A large explosion caused by an incendiary device in the Amsterdam suburb of Osdorp was reported Tuesday night in a fourth night of violence.
Eindhoven's mayor John Jorritsma warned that the country was on a path to "civil war" after protestors in his city burned a police car, attacked cops with rocks, golf balls and fireworks, looted a supermarket and turned piled-up bicycles into blazing barricades.
Home to the electronics giant Philips, rioters also ransacked Eindhoven's newly renovated railway station and set ablaze a railway carriage.
Police in riot gear used water cannon, dogs and mounted officers to break up protests, arresting over 240 protestors.
Dutch officials announced Tuesday they would not reverse the COVID curfew, imposed for the first time since World War II, which forces residents to be at home between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.
The police trade union Nederlandse Politiebond (NPB) said it feared that the riots were just the start of the unrest as people grow more frustrated with the suffocating lockdowns.
"We haven't seen so much violence in 40 years," NPB spokesman Koen Simmers said on television program Nieuwsuur. "I hope it was a one-off, but I'm afraid it was a harbinger for the coming days and weeks."
Alexander Tschugguel, who participated in a Jan. 16 rally in Vienna against Austria's third lockdown, told Church Militant he joined the protests as a faithful Catholic "as I know that our government pressures the Austrian bishops to set new rules for the faithful so that we cannot attend Holy Mass normally."
"From Monday, we even have to wear surgical masks to just enter a supermarket or travel on public transport!" the noted Austrian political activist and founder of St. Boniface Institute exclaimed.
The Austrian-mandated FFP2 respirator is a tight-fitting mask, which creates a facial seal and filters both inflow and outflow of air.
"Right now, in Austria, we face new rules every week. Those rules are more and more affecting our constitutional rights so much that more than 15,000 people decided to join a huge demonstration in Vienna against the government," said Tschugguel, who became famous after dunking Pachamama idols into the river Tiber during the Amazon Synod.
"Many people want to demonstrate but the government has started banning these rallies. So technically, the next demonstration, which should happen this Saturday and Sunday, will be not legal," Tschugguel remarked. "We have to stand up against this! This is getting more dictatorship-like every day."
In Denmark, police arrested three persons for burning an effigy of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during an anti-lockdown protest in Copenhagen.
"She can and should be culled," read the sign around the effigy's neck. Frederiksen approved the culling of millions of minks after a mutated version of the coronavirus was found on mink farms.
Police also arrested dozens of "men in black" demonstrators for joining rallies in the capital as well as in Aarhus, Denmark's second-largest city.
A day after the Danish demonstrations, thousands turned out in central Prague to protest against extended coronavirus restrictions.
In comments to Church Militant, David Kurten, member of the London Assembly, noted "lockdowns are unnecessary and disproportionate. They have proven ruinous to civil liberties, businesses, children's education and mental health, as well as being responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people who have been denied medical treatment for cancer and other conditions."
"It is unsurprising that citizens are now fighting back against oppressive states and their destructive new laws," said Kurten, a candidate for the forthcoming London mayoral election and a participant in previous anti-lockdown demonstrations.
On Sunday, German police corralled hundreds of protestors in Munich after a court restricted the number of people allowed to demonstrate.
Demonstrators in Nuremberg earlier in January subverted the restrictions by disguising the protest rally as an outdoor church service.
"We, the Protestant and Catholic Church in Nuremberg, condemn the abuse of the term worship," stated a joint press release by the deans of the two churches.
Meanwhile, Spanish police fined 216 protestors who joined the "March for Freedom" in Madrid Saturday for "not obeying social distancing rules" and "refusing to wear a mask."
Hundreds participated in the demonstration organized by the Conscientious and Free Humans collective at Madrid's Plaza del Emperador Carlos V.
Members from organizations including Doctors for Truth, Firefighters for Freedom and Teachers for Truth joined the march under the banner: "For freedom, our rights, our life."
Mainstream media dismissed the protestors as "COVID deniers" but protestors responded with slogans saying: "I am a denier because I question and investigate. Your obedience prolongs this nightmare" and "We want to breathe."
Fiery protests have also erupted outside Europe as Lebanese protestors in Beirut, Tripoli and Saida protested for the third day in a row, pelting police with stones and burning tires in an attempt to block traffic.
In Israel, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews threw rocks at riot police and set fire to vehicles as police responded with water cannons to quell anti-lockdown protests in the Mea Sharim neighborhood of Jerusalem during a Tuesday morning demonstration.