Farmers' highway protest life-threatening and unacceptable: Dutch PM
Prime Minister Mark Rutte finds the “protest actions by a small group of farmers” on the highways “unacceptable” and life-threatening, he said on Twitter. “There are plenty of other ways to express your dissatisfaction within the law. Most farmers do that too.”
Farmers dumped hay bales, manure, and car tires on several highways overnight. In some places, there is also asbestos in the rubbish. On the A7 between Groningen and Drachten, there was an accident involving several vehicles due to the waste dumping. No one got hurt.
“Willingly endangering others, damaging our infrastructure, and threatening people who help clean up crosses all lines,” Rutte tweeted. He expressed his support for the Rijkswaterstaat and the police “who are working with all their might to limit the consequences of these actions” and called on people who receive threats to report them to the police.
Rutte is on vacation but says he is in contact with the most involved Ministers. Several Ministers have expressed their concerns in written statements and called for an end to illegal actions, but other than that, they’ve been barely visible.
A spokesperson for Rutte said that there are “constant” consultations in the Cabinet. “It just doesn’t happen in front of everyone.” The Ministers “monitor and take action where necessary.”
The Ministry of Justice and Security also said that “a lot of” consultations are happening with the police, Public Prosecution Service, and municipalities, among others. A spokesperson said that it is “very clear” that the government finds these actions unacceptable and that “you cannot get away with it.” The fact that Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius hasn’t been physically visible has to do with the summer recess, he said.
The Ministry of Defense said when asked that it received no requests for help from the armed forces to clean up the mess on the highways. According to the law, the Ministry of Defense is only allowed to help if commercial pirates are unable to do so. “If there is a request at all, I do not expect Defense to be able to respond,” said a spokesperson.
D66 leader Jan Paternotte believes the Cabinet should draw a "hard line" to keep the Netherlands safe. He said civilians are being deliberately endangered, and activists are "constantly" committing threats and intimidation. "Let's really stop calling this 'demonstrating.' This is terrorizing."
Farmers' action groups Farmers Defense Force (FDF) and Agractie said the government could stop the farmers’ actions on and around the highways at any time by adjusting its nitrogen plans. “We don’t like the actions either, so the government has to start moving now,” said Erik Luiten of Agractie.
FDF chairman Mark van den Oever also said it’s time for the government to act. “Because you notice that the farmers are no longer holding back and that the actions are escalating further. The government must immediately end the actions by scrapping the nitrogen letter from the table.”
“Accidents can, of course, never be justified,’ Van Oever said. “But as long as it’s a little bit of damage, I don’t find it that bad.”
FDF and Agractie claim not to be involved in the protest actions. “We understand the frustration of many farmers, and they express it. But we only call for demonstrations within the limits of the law,” said Luiten of Agractie.
Dirk Bruins of agricultural and horticultural organization LTO Noord disapproves of the new actions on the highways. “I am also very angry and disappointed in how the Cabinet is tackling the nitrogen policy,” he said on Twitter. “We are addressing politicians and campaigning for attention. But what happened today is not acceptable. Those who dumped rubbish on the highway today: take responsibility!”
Reporting by ANP