Extinction Rebellion activists arrested at home over plans to block A12 highway
The police arrested six climate activists at their homes on Thursday morning for plans to block the A12 highway on Saturday. “Calling for a criminal offense, such as blocking the public road, counts as sedition,” the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said.
According to the climate action group Extinction Rebellion (XR), at least two of the arrested nonviolent climate activists form part of the group, and the arrests are part of an effort to suppress the peaceful blockade. “XR condemns the criminalization of nonviolent climate activists,” XR said. “The right to peaceful protest is being trampled by the Dutch state.”
Extinction Rebellion plans to block the A12 highway next to parliament and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy in The Hague on Saturday to nonviolently demand an immediate end to the government's annual fossil subsidies. According to XR, over a thousand people have signed up for the protest.
According to the OM, concerns for global warming “is no excuse to call for blocking an important public road.” A previous blockade, on November 26 last year, “led to dangerous traffic situations in The Hague,” the OM said. The police, therefore, arrested six activists for questioning.
“Demonstration is a fundamental right and is facilitated by the municipality of The Hague,” the OM said. “But a demonstration is not a license to commit criminal offenses.” According to the OM, the authorities have no choice but to act if the safety of others is endangered.
XR said that their lawyer had informed the OM that all its activists would willingly corporate with requests for interrogation, making the arrests unnecessary. Lawyer Willem Jebbink called it “disappointing” that the OM decided to arrest activists despite their willingness to work with the authorities.
“These arrests are disproportionate,’ the lawyer said. “Last year, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal clearly ruled that calling for blockades in snot a criminal offense because the intent is not to commit criminal acts but to call for peaceful protest.”
According to news wire ANP, the arrests resulted in nine civil society organizations pledging to take part in the climate protest on the A12 on Saturday. "The directors consider it important to support the action because the right to protest in the form of civil disobedience is under pressure," Greenpeace said in a statement issued on behalf of itself, Urgenda, Milieudefensie, FNV, De Goede Zaak, Both ENDS, Fossielvrij NL, the Jonge Klimaatbeweging, and Oxfam Novib.
According to the organizations, the fact that the Dutch authorities labeled a call to demonstrate as sedition is "not only unjustified, it is also an attempt to negatively influence and criminalize the social debate about peaceful action."
"We disapprove of this intimidation and find it unacceptable," said Oxfam Novib director Michiel Servaes in the same statement.