Police make 2,400 arrests at A12 demo

Protesters came prepared for the use of water cannon. Photo: ANP/Phil Nijhuis

Police have arrested 2,400 demonstrators, including dozens of under-18s, after using water cannon on a banned protest by Extinction Rebellion activists on the A12 motorway near The Hague.

Dutch media reported that the protest started at midday and after asking people to leave the spot, the police began making arrests at around 2.30pm. According to the Parool, 2,400 people were arrested and several have been charged for alleged offenses.

Police told NOS that there was “some violence” used when – they said – activists blocked their way to their vehicles and were hit with batons.

The motorway protest was banned by the local council on safety grounds. Demonstrators were told to move to an authorised protest location near the main railway station. Several thousand demonstrators, including organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Netherlands, attended the allowed demonstration nearby.

The Extinction Rebellion group had said this was the start of daily protests and a ‘permanent’ blockade. “I think this says it all,” one protestor told Dutch media, holding a board that read: I don’t want to be afraid of the future.

Activist Anne Kervers, from Extinction Rebellion, told NOS: “The government promised 15 years ago to scrap fossil fuel subsidies. In the meantime, they have been denied and trivialised.”

Tax breaks and perks given to polluting companies are described as “fossil fuel subsidies” and a Friends of the Earth Netherlands report last week claimed these advantageous rulings are worth €37.5 billion a year to major shipping companies, airports, non-sustainable electricity and oil-fuelled industry.

Climate and energy minister Rob Jetten was present at the demonstration and talked to demonstrators. He wrote on social media: “Every day I work on what XR is quite rightly asking for: reducing all fossil subsidies [but these motorway demonstrations] need to happen differently.”

On Friday caretaker justice minister and the next leader of the VVD Dilan Yeşilgöz urged protestors not to block the A12 motorway, saying the right to protest was “a great asset” but should not be done on major traffic routes. Some 10,000 protesters are expected on Saturday and the ANWB warned motorists to take other routes.

Previous such demonstrations have led to mass arrests, including of journalists, and the use of water cannon. In May, Game of Thrones actress Carice van Houten was among those arrested then immediately released, in a demonstration of some 1,600 people.

In November, 500 activists blocked private jet space at Schiphol airport, with 200 arrests, and seven people incorrectly sent warning letters from the public prosecutor after apparently being “identified” online although they were not there.

The activist group calls for action on the “climate and ecological crisis” with demonstrations and stunts but, NRC reports, is also setting up a more conventional lobbying operation. The Netherlands is experiencing a heat wave and the conditions on Saturday afternoon around The Hague were full sun and 27 degrees.

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