Farmers threaten to protest at Dutch airports; Police claim "attempted manslaughter" in earlier violence
Farmers are are using their own communication channels to call for a large-scale protest action on Monday that will "flatten the whole of the Netherlands." The call to action was shared and supported extensively, and includes proposals to assemble at Schiphol Airport, Eindhoven Airport, and Rotterdam The Hague Airport.
Supporters were also advised to target the Port of Rotterdam and food distribution centers. The call was distributed in various channels, including on WhatsApp and Telegram. "Our government is not yet impressed by the actions of the agricultural sector and rural people. Time for major actions from Monday, 4 July 2022. Shut down the Netherlands, but keep things tidy," reads one of the statements.
The farmers are called upon to organize the actions within their own regions. Farmers' nonprofit organization Agractie claims to have seen the message, but says it is not involved. The head of the national police force says in a response that it is aware of the announced action and "will keep a close eye on it."
Airports are awaiting further information about the protests, and will enter into talks with the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. This branch of the military is responsible for safety and enforcement at the airports.
It is then up to the airports to point out potential disturbances to passengers. "We are used to prior demonstrations, but I think this will be of a different magnitude," said a spokesperson for the Rotterdam airport. "We will consult with the Marechaussee about what we can do best. We will prepare for it, and we still have a few days for that."
Schiphol is advising travelers to keep an eye on its website. "We will set up something there if the protest has consequences for the traffic situation, for example, but it is still too early for that," a spokesperson said.
"We will keep an eye on it until more information comes in," said a representative of Eindhoven Airport. "If we know what is going on, we will inform passengers. But we do not know enough at the moment."
A spokesperson for Haarlemmermeer, where Schiphol is located, says that the municipality is aware of the plans and that they have protocols ready to address the situation. "If this protest does not violate any rules, let it continue. I cannot anticipate a total blockade of Schiphol. We will see when it happens." He does take into account that a national directive will be issued from the judiciary to enforce laws more strictly, given the farmers' violent actions on Tuesday evening at the home of Nitrogen Minister Christianne van der Wal.
An emergency ordinance was put into effect on Wednesday afternoon around Van der Wal's home. The municipality of Harderwijk, where the house is located, made the announcement.
The area around the house is considered a security risk area. This means that preventive searches may be carried out, and people who have no legitimate reason to be in the area can be sent away.
The emergency ordinance will remain in force for a week, the municipality reports. The reason for the measure is the farmer's actions around the minister's house on Tuesday evening, when farmers broke through a police cordon. "The boundaries of public order and safety have been trampled," said the municipality.
Mayor Harm-Jan van Schaik from Harderwijk says that residents of the municipality empathize with the farmers and their protests against the nitrogen policy. "But the intimidating atmosphere that hovered over the protest yesterday has a major impact on the family members of the minister, and the other residents on the street and in the neighborhood. I find that very undesirable."
Ten suspects were arrested in the east of the Netherlands on Wednesday after the Tuesday's protests. Police accused them of public violence, creating a blockade on the highway, and attempted manslaughter. Nine people remained in custody later on Wednesday, the Public Prosecution Service reported. One underage suspect was temporarily released from custody.
Aside from what happened outside Van der Wal's home, the A1 was blocked for an extensive period near Stroe. There, and in Kootwijkerbroek, police vans damaged and officers were cornered. Five of the arrests happened in that area, including two on suspicion of attempted murder.
"If you weren't arrested last night, that doesn't mean you can get away with this. We will also recover damages caused to police vehicles," said police leader Janny Knol in a warning to the rioting farmers. A major investigation is underway, and the Public Prosecution Service expects more arrests to follow.
Knol calls it "unacceptable how police officers were attacked and cornered in some places in our unit." The police boss added, "We respect that farmers want to demonstrate, that is a fundamental right. But as soon as boundaries are crossed, we act."
Knol asks that people who have images of the farmer actions in the east of the Netherlands to share them with the police. If the protests continue in the coming days, the Public Prosecution Service will consider dealing with the various cases in a rapid trial procedure.
King Willem-Alexander said that violence and intimidation is "never the solution" after the state visit to Austria. "Ultimately we have to get back to the table, we have to start the dialogue again and solve the problem together." The king says that he and his wife, Queen Máxima, followed the news in the Netherlands closely. "The farmers are part of our cultural heritage, part of the Netherlands," continues the king.
On Tuesday evening, after the farmers' demonstrations, activists also arrived unannounced at the home of CDA MP Derk Boswijk, blocking several roads. King Willem-Alexander does not know whether "the limit" has been reached. "I don't know where the limit is. In the end we have to sit down at the table again. Ultimately, the nitrogen problem has to be solved and that is only possible if we sit down together and find a solution to this problem."
The king emphasizes that MPs and ministers must always be able to do their work. "And as much as possible, society should ensure that that is also possible." He does not have a clear answer to the question of whether the riots are an attack on the democratic constitutional state.
"To state it so heavily that way seems difficult to me right now. But again, violence is not a solution to the problem."
Reporting by ANP