Lawyers for climate group Extinction Rebellion on Tuesday told judges the use of a water cannon against activists is disproportionate and asked The Hague district court to ban their use in the ongoing protests against fossil fuel subsidies.
The police have repeatedly sprayed protesters with a water cannon during nearly a month of protests, in an effort to end blockades of the A12 highway into The Hague.
“Tolerance is still required, even when a road is blocked and traffic is disrupted,” Extinction Rebellion lawyer Jaantje Kramer told the court.
The hearing attracted dozens of supporters, most of whom had to sit in an overflow room and watch the hearing from a live stream.
The group occasionally loudly grumbled in response to arguments from the government, sometimes shouting “that’s not true” when they disagreed with the points of the lawyer.
According to Kramer, the use of a water cannon is not properly regulated in the Netherlands and water can be shot at such a high speed that it can cause serious injury. Extinction Rebellion wants the use of the counter-protest measure to be restricted.
Lawyers for the government defended the use of the water cannon, which they referred to as a “waterwerper” or water thrower throughout the hearing. They say it is only used against demonstrators who have repeatedly refused to leave and the force is set a reasonable maximum.
Government lawyer Marianne Hirsch Ballin called a ban an “unnecessary restriction” to the powers of the mayor and said that the A12 is a very important travel route in The Hague.
In videos shown to the court, it is clear that the water cannon is used at a range shorter than 15 meters, the distance the government claims it maintains. The videos also showed that the spray was aimed at demonstrators’ heads, despite earlier claims that the police do not do that as a safety precaution.
The use of the water cannon was “completely useless” said Maria Litjens, who was sprayed during a demonstration in September. She told the court she was with a small group who was penned in by police and couldn’t leave.
Another protestor described how he had to take paracetamol for a week after being sprayed.
“I haven’t seen any good reason” to use water cannon, Ruben van Eldik told Dutch News. He has attended several Extinction Rebellion protests and has experienced the water cannon several times.
Van Eldik says that protesters are trained by Extinction Rebellion on how to properly participate in the protests so they don’t pose any threats to the police.
Fossil fuel subsidies
Extinction Rebellion wants the Dutch government to stop giving up to €46 billion in indirect fossil fuel subsidies to industry every year. The daily protests, which are now on their 24th day, have resulted in thousands of arrests as police clear the motorway.
Over the weekend, counter-protesters gathered along the highway as well. Calling themselves “Kick out the Rebellions,” several dozen people threw eggs at the protestors but were prevented by the police from getting too close.
Extinction Rebellion was joined by a German climate activist group Letze Generation, who glued themselves to manhole covers to make their removal more challenging.
A court decision is expected on October 13.
Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl.
We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.Make a donation