Dutch police arrest four over attacks on journalists at COVID-defiant churches

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Dutch police have arrested four people over attacks on journalists at churches that reopened in defiance of government coronavirus advice, police said Monday.

A TV reporter was allegedly hit by a car and assaulted in the town of Urk on Sunday, while another was kicked in Krimpen aan den IJssel near the port of Rotterdam.

Urk, in the “Bible Belt” where the Dutch Orthodox Reformed Church holds sway, was where the first riots broke out in January against a nationwide COVID-19 curfew.

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Police arrested a 35-year-old man in Urk on Sunday on suspicion of attempted assault over the car incident, and two men aged 26 and 28 from Urk were held on Monday, a police statement said.

A 43-year-old man was arrested separately in Krimpen aan den IJssel, the ANP news agency reported.

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Video from Dutch public broadcaster NOS shows a silver car striking the reporter for another broadcaster, PowNed, as he tried to interview people outside the Sionkerk church in Urk.

In the other incident a reporter from RTV Rijnmond said he was kicked in the back and pushed, with footage showing a scuffle after the incident.

Hundreds of churchgoers returned to services on Sunday in spite of Dutch government advice to limit gatherings to less than 30 people.

Due to freedom of religion laws, the Dutch government is not allowed to intervene or impose fines over what happens in church buildings, public broadcaster NOS said.

Dutch media outlets meanwhile condemned what they said was a failure of police to intervene despite being present at the church in Urk.

“These direct attacks on journalism are unacceptable and an attack on freedom of the press,” the Dutch Society of Editors said in a statement.

PowNed editor Dominique Weesie said the police actions were “nonsense.”

Police said they had not arrested the driver earlier in Urk in order to “keep the peace.”

A coronavirus testing center was burned down in Urk in January on the first night of the Netherlands’ first national curfew since World War II, before the unrest spread to major cities.

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