Sep 24, 2023 at 5:04 am
Extinction Rebellion (XR) has been blocking the A12 every day for two weeks. If it is up to the action group, there will be no end to this anytime soon. This has consequences for police deployment in The Hague. “Our goal is not to be nice, our goal is to solve the climate crisis.”
Campaigners are still on the highway every day. The numbers do vary per day. There is a higher turnout at the weekend than during the week and the record number of 2,400 attendees of the first day will no longer be achieved.
This is also reflected in the police figures. In the first week, hundreds of people were arrested every day. This dropped to about 100 to 150 arrests per day in the past week. In total, almost six thousand arrests have been made, but (almost) no one has been punished.
Registration lists still full
Spokesperson Hester op de Laak also expects a high turnout in the coming weeks. “The registration list for this month is well filled.” She doesn’t foresee any problems for October either. “Our view is set on infinity.”
XR only wants to stop when all fossil subsidies for businesses have been abolished. In short, fossil subsidies mean that large companies get a ‘discount’ on paying taxes on gas and electricity: they have a much lower rate than consumers.
According to environmental organizations, the government pays tens of billions every year to keep the system afloat. Outgoing Minister Rob Jetten (Climate and Energy) previously acknowledged that he wants to stop the subsidies, but said that he will need years to do so.
“We have been asking for assistance from other units for some time,” a spokesperson explains. She sums up that, for example, the consequences of the A12 demonstrations are “palpable” in the motorcycle guidance department. The force cannot provide figures. An investigation is underway into the exact consequences of the demonstrations for the overall police deployment.
Support for weeks to come
There has been frustration within the police due to the demonstrations for some time and not every Dutch person is happy with them. But according to Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, professor of social change and conflict at the Vrije Universiteit, the majority of Dutch people can continue to support the demonstrations for a long time. “People can tolerate protests for weeks.”
Van Stekelenburg continues: “You also saw this phenomenon among farmers. At that time, 80 percent of the population still had sympathy for the demonstrators. Only when norms were exceeded, such as using violence or visiting politicians at home, did support for the farmers.”
XR is aware that the actions may ultimately have consequences for support. “We realize that such a blockade is extremely disruptive for normal citizens,” says Op de Laak. “But our goal is not to be nice either. And the disruptions are also disproportionate to the consequences of climate change.”
How do you keep protesting for so long?
Marathon demonstrations take a lot of time. Not everyone can persevere, for example because of a full-time job or a busy family life.
“Extinction Rebellion has solved a few things cleverly, which has lowered the bar,” says Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, professor of social change and conflict. “The A12 is not blocked continuously, but once a day. Sharply at 12 o’clock. You can perhaps combine that with your lunch break.”
She also points out that people are often removed from the highway within an hour. This means it takes less time than demonstrating all day.
In recent history, a number of protests have continued for a long time. For example, the ‘Yellow Vests’ demonstrated in France for 54 weeks in a row.
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