Farmers have defied an order to keep their tractors off the motorways as they head towards The Hague to protest against the government’s nitrogen reduction plans.
Organisation Farmers Defence Force, which last year brought motorways to a standstill, blockaded supermarkets and dumped farm waste on roads, said it expected thousands of its members to converge on the city on Thursday.
Mayor Jan van Zanen issued an emergency order just after 7am banning tractors from the city centre, but police are expecting hundreds of vehicles to arrive for an unofficial protest.
The demonstration coincides with a debate in parliament on talks between the government and agricultural organisations to agree a plan for the future of sustainable farming, which collapsed last week when the main farmers’ lobby group, the LTO, pulled out.
MPs are expected to be highly critical of the government’s handling of the talks during Thursday’s debate, while GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver has called for it to be postponed because prime minister Mark Rutte is in Brussels for a two-day EU summit meeting.
Police were negotiating with a group of tractor drivers at the A1 motorway junction in Bathmen on Thursday morning after stopping them joining the motorway.
Around 40 farmers who headed down the A28 towards Amersfoort were given a police escort before being diverted off the road and fined.
— F̳̿͟͞l̳̿͟͞i̳̿͟͞c̳̿͟͞k̳̿͟͞ (@Flick1_) June 29, 2023
“It’s not a continuous procession and they’re mostly keeping to the right-hand lane, but the travel time for other traffic has increased,” Suzanne Maas, spokeswoman for the highways agency Rijkswaterstaat, told AD.
Rutte condemns FDF
Mark van den Oever, chairman of FDF, came under fire on Wednesday when he was accused of publishing the telephone numbers of two Christian Democrat (CDA) MPs via Twitter.
Rutte condemned the move as an act of intimidation, while CDA leader and foreign affairs minister Wopke Hoekstra described it as “appalling and unacceptable”.
“We can disagree with each other about things in the Netherlands, but we do it decently and respectfully. This is not how we do business in a civilised country,” Rutte said.
Caroline van der Plas, MP for the farmers’ party BBB, declined an invitation to address a protest organised by FDF on the Malieveld because the group had not distanced itself from the intimidation of MPs.
Van den Oever denied he was responsible for the messages, claiming FDF was not on Twitter, but one of the two MPs, Eline Vedder, said she had received “non-stop phone calls and app messages”, including some threats, since the video went live.
Ik zie vele tweets dat onderstaand bericht nep zou zijn. Mijn telefoon zegt iets anders. Non stop telefoon en appjes. Met ‘advies’. En wat er gebeurt als dat advies niet wordt opgevolgd. Ik word geacht er vanwege veiligheid niet over te praten. Maar ben er knap ziek van. https://t.co/195rZT6kqm
— Eline Vedder (@ElineVedder) June 28, 2023
Van den Oever added he felt “no sympathy” for politicians who were bombarded with messages from his supporters. “It’s fine for them to call, that’s what phones are for,” he said.
FDF had hoped to raise 10,000 supporters for a demonstration outside parliament, but less than 1,000 made the trip. Van Zanen directed police to move the protesters to the Malieveld because of a lack of space.
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