Criticism of farmers’ actions swells: ‘Stop disrupting society’

Protesting farmers stand with tractors and cows at the building of the House of Representatives in The Hague. The farmers demonstrate at the House of Representatives building where the MPs debate the cabinet’s nitrogen plans.

Many police are present at the demonstration. Entrances to the House of Representatives are guarded by several agents.

100 trees cut down

This morning, the fire brigade had to intervene in various places to extinguish hay and straw bales that were on fire along highways.

Yesterday the protesting farmers caused long traffic jams with their tractors. Manure was dumped in front of the City Hall in Apeldoorn and there was much criticism of a cattle farmer and councilor of the SGP who sawed down a hundred pollard willows in the Krimpenerwaard in protest against the nitrogen policy.

See in the tweet below how a slurry truck discharges its contents on the highway:

The extreme actions are the last straw for many people. Attje Kuiken, party leader of the PvdA, says via Twitter that demonstrating is a fundamental right, but ‘blocking highways is life-threatening. There are plenty of other acceptable ways to express your displeasure. Stop this!’

There is also a lot of misunderstanding on social media.

‘Given a lot of space’

“The right to demonstrate is interpreted broadly and authorities often give a lot of space to demonstrations,” says associate professor Berend Roorda of the University of Groningen. He is a specialist in demonstration law. “Blockades on the highway in principle fall under the right to demonstrate, but there are exceptions, such as the blocking friezes that the highway blocked so that the anti-Zwarte Piet protest could not take place. Mayors may impose restrictions if necessary, for example that the highway may not be blocked with agricultural vehicles.”

According to Roorda, demonstrating is not a license to commit criminal offences. “You have to comply with the law. However, we see that judges sometimes make a trade-off. For example, judges sometimes judge that some offenses that are normally punishable are not punishable in the context of a demonstration. not allowed during a demonstration is sometimes a bit complicated.”

Sympathy acts as a buffer

According to Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, professor of Social Change and Conflict at the VU Amsterdam, there is a lot of sympathy for the farmers. But there are a number of aspects that can quickly reduce this: “When actions are organized that fall outside the law, where violence against people takes place or when visiting politicians at home.”

According to her, we saw the same dynamic during the farmers’ protests three years ago. “It’s a see-saw movement: the number of people who can tolerate the disturbance of public order depends very much on how high their sympathy is and how high their involvement is with the message that is being conveyed.”

The sympathy of the Netherlands acts as a buffer. It can take a long time for the jacks to overplay their hand. Until the farmers start to take actions that fall outside the law, people are often not charmed by that. Van Stekelenburg cannot yet say whether that is already the case.

Frustrated in traffic

On Monday, especially on the blocked highways, there was a lot of anger about the actions of the farmers. “At first I had sympathy for the farmers, but not anymore,” a driver told RTL Nieuws. “I’ve been standing here for over an hour,” he said. Watch more frustrated traffic jam drivers in the video below:

‘Within the limits of the law’

Prime Minister Rutte also responded on Tuesday in a inserted press moment on the peasant protests. He calls the dangerous situations created by the farmers’ protests unacceptable.

“We understand the concerns of the farmers,” says the prime minister and the right to demonstrate is a great asset, he says. “But it is not acceptable that dangerous situations arise. That drivers are intimidated.” According to Rutte, this is not related to the right to demonstrate.

Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius also emphasized that the right to demonstrate is a great right. “But you don’t demonstrate by intimidating and using aggression,” said the Minister of Security and Justice. “Demonstrate within the limits of the law, fines have already been handed out, you can’t just get away with it.”

‘distraught and angry’

Transport and Logistics Netherlands understands the farmers’ concerns, but finds the demonstrations on the highways unacceptable. “It cannot be the intention that actions endanger others or make work impossible,” the organization said. “We call on the protesters to stop the roadblocks as soon as possible.”

The largest farmers’ organization in the Netherlands, LTO, tells RTL Nieuws that the actions are an expression of desperation and anger. Chairman Sjaak van der Tak: “The actions must be appropriate and worthy to organize the support of society.”

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