THE HAGUE; A convoy of vehicles from across the Netherlands brought The Hague's city centre to a brief standstill on Saturday (May 14), protesting COVID-19 restrictions.
Inspired by Canadian truckers who congested the capital Ottawa, several hundred vehicles during the day blocked access to the Binnehof, seat of the Dutch government, according to a report by public television.
After police warned protesters they would be fined and arrested if they did not leave by mid-afternoon, the drivers withdrew.
"The protesters who were blocking the city centre with trucks ... have now left," police posted on Twitter in the evening.
The protesters had started to arrive in the early morning in trucks, cars, tractors and even caravans.
At first they refused to leave, organisers said, until "fundamental and long-lasting change" was enacted and all COVID-19 restrictions were lifted nationwide.
"The protest ... is quietly ending," organisers posted on Telegram later in the afternoon. "Tomorrow is another day."
Dutch press agency ANP said most left the area calmly, but minor skirmishes broke out after the trucks drove away.
"Horseback police dispersed a group of people and dealt blows...," it reported. "At least two people were arrested."
Rutger van Lier, a 46-year-old entrepreneur, earlier told AFP the protest was "of course inspired by Canada.
"There too, people are very unhappy with public policy," he said.
Several other protesters earlier said they would drive on to the Belgian capital Brussels, or even to Paris, where French police issued fines and fired tear gas Saturday to disperse similar protests.
Some said they would be back in The Hague on Sunday.
The Canada-style convoy is just the latest demonstration against the government's anti-Covid restrictions in the Netherlands.
Anger spilled over into violence in January last year and again in November when riots erupted in cities including The Hague and Rotterdam.