Caretaker justice minister Dilan Yesilgöz has urged climate demonstrators not to block the A12 motorway in The Hague ahead of a planned series of protests by Extinction Rebellion starting this weekend.
Yesilgöz said the right to protest was a “great asset”, but told the demonstrators against fossil fuels to stay away from major traffic routes.
“Please do it somewhere else,” she said. “Occupying roads is not something we want in the Netherlands.”
Previous protests on the A12 have been ended with police arresting the participants en masse, before releasing nearly all of them almost immediately.
In May Game of Thrones actress Carice van Houten was among those arrested after police used water cannon to disperse a crowd of around 1,600 people.
City mayor Jan van Zanen has said demonstrations are not banned, but blockading motorways goes beyond the limits of the right to protests. “It’s not out of the question for roads to be blocked for 15 minutes during a demonstration,” he told a round-table discussion in parliament this week.
“It’s fine if it causes a bit of nuisance. But not the A12 and not for an unlimited time.”
Demonstrators argue that the police are taking an increasingly heavy-handed approach and eroding the right to peaceful assembly. In January eight activists were arrested in dawn raids for posting messages on social media calling for people to take part in a blockade on the A12.
Some MPs have also voiced concern that measures such as pre-emptive arrest have an intimidating effect. “We live in a democratic country where you’re allowed to protest wherever you want, even unannounced, so as far as I’m concerned they’ve done nothing wrong,” D66 MP Hind Dekker said.
Extinction Rebellion has vowed to stage daily protests on the Utrechtsebaan until all government subsidies for fossil fuels are abolished.
The group says it expects 10,000 people to take part in Saturday’s demonstration, while three marches from different locations around the country will converge in The Hague on Sunday.
“We’re seeing an increase in the number of participants, the next step is an escalation of the number of protests,” Extinction Rebellion activist Lucas Winnips said.
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