Over 1,500 climate activists arrested at protest in Netherlands

Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists shout slogans as police officials use a water cannon to disperse their protest while blocking the A12 autoroute in The Hague on May 27, 2023, to show the activist’s opposition to fossil subsidies given by the Dutch government. During the most recent blockade on March 11, some 700 activists were arrested.—AFP 

The city of The Hague was the site of a substantial climate protest led by the Extinction Rebellion group, resulting in the arrest of over 1,500 individuals, as reported by the Dutch police.

The protesters took action by obstructing a portion of a motorway in the afternoon to voice their opposition against the government’s support for Dutch fossil fuel subsidies. In response, law enforcement authorities employed water cannons to disperse the demonstrators and subsequently detained a total of 1,579 individuals. Among those arrested, 40 individuals, including vandals, will face legal consequences for their actions.

Extinction Rebellion estimated that approximately 7,000 people gathered to join the demonstration, showcasing the widespread concern for the urgent need to address climate change. Some protesters anticipated the use of water cannons and came prepared, donning swimsuits or carrying umbrellas while sitting in protest on the A12 motorway. Banners and signs were prominently displayed, expressing their demands and raising awareness about the climate crisis.

This protest marked the seventh demonstration organised by Extinction Rebellion in the same section of the motorway near The Hague’s parliament and main ministry buildings. However, this particular event witnessed the highest number of arrests during a single protest, according to the Dutch news agency ANP.

Anne Kerevers, a 31-year-old postgraduate student, expressed her determination, stating, “We’re going to stay here until they drag us away.” Kerevers emphasised that climate change is an ongoing crisis with a known cause that continues to be subsidised by the government, which she believes needs to cease. Her sentiments were shared with other protesters who demand immediate and substantial climate action.

The demonstration also saw the participation of several Dutch celebrities, including Carice van Houten, renowned for her role as Melisandre in the popular TV series “Game of Thrones.” Van Houten posted a video on Instagram showing herself wearing a red poncho and being drenched by a water cannon. Reports indicate that she was arrested but later allowed to return home, although it was not specified whether she would face prosecution.

Police authorities stated that they had repeatedly provided opportunities for the activists to end their protest voluntarily before resorting to the use of water cannons and making arrests. Aaron Pereira, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, highlighted the exponential growth in the number of protesters at each demonstration, indicating the broad popular support for real climate action. Pereira criticised the government for contradicting the public’s demand by subsidising the fossil fuel industry.

Over the years, Extinction Rebellion has gained recognition for its disruptive and attention-grabbing tactics, which have become their trademark. Their direct-action protests targeting roads, airports, and other public transport networks have caused significant disruptions and drawn attention to the issue of climate change. While the group temporarily suspended its high-profile stunts in January, they pledged to mobilise large numbers of individuals to protest against what they perceive as government inaction on global warming. 

Notable demonstrations included a four-day action in London, where thousands rallied outside the UK parliament. Extinction Rebellion has also staged protests at airports across Europe, including a demonstration at Eindhoven airport in the Netherlands in March. Additionally, they recently participated in a demonstration against Europe’s largest private jet sales fair in Geneva, where some activists chained themselves to the displayed planes, briefly disrupting air traffic at the airport.

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