Climate activists released from custody; Banned from Hague highway for months
Six climate activists arrested Thursday morning for sedition were released from custody after questioning. The activists are affiliated with Extinction Rebellion (XR) and had called for a demonstration on the A12 in The Hague on Saturday. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) announced that the activists are banned from the Utrechtesebaan (A12) for the next 90 days.
XR plans to block the A12 next to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the temporary building of the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament. The climate action group previously also blocked the highway in protests. Saturday’s rally is to demand that the Cabinet immediately stop its subsidies for fossil fuels.
The action group called its activists’ arrests “criminalization of nonviolent climate activists.” Other civil society organizations shared the view and pledged to join the highway blockade on Saturday. Oxfam Novib director Michiel Servaes said: “We disapprove of this intimidation and find it unacceptable.” The organizations pledged to join the protest because they believe the right to demonstrate is under severe pressure in the Netherlands.
XR climate activist Lucas Winnips, arrested last week for the same reason as Thursday’s arrests, will plead against the restraining order banning him from the A12 in court on Friday. Lawyer Willem Jebbink will argue that the Dutch authorities are depriving his client of his right to demonstrate. “Our legal system stipulates that only the mayor may restrict this right,” Jebbink said.
According to the OM, blocking the highway is a criminal offense, and it is therefore not restricting the climate activists’ right to demonstrate. The OM said the arrests are “about safety” and that XR is trying to “frame it as if we are going against the right to demonstrate, but that is not the case.” Highway blockades are “dangerous and disruptive.”
Michiel Zwinkels, the chief public prosecutor of the OM in The Hague, wrote on LinkedIn that there is plenty of room to demonstrate in The Hague, also for XR. “Unfortunately, the action group has so far remained unreachable for the municipality to make good agreements about a safe demonstration.”
On the talk show Jinek, Zwinkels claimed that the OM does not have double standards. Critics pointed out that the police are quick to arrest nonviolent climate protestors, but angry farmers can block highways with apparently no consequence. According to him, the police also detained people this way during coronavirus- and farmers’ protests. “If enforcement is required, it is more complicated if 600 tractors come at you than 600 people on sneakers.”
GroenLinks calls gov’t to stop subsidizing fossil fuels.
Opposition party GroenLinks wants to amend the law to immediately stop five subsidy schemes for the fossil industry, involving about 400 million euros. It mainly concerns tax benefits and -exemptions for the fossil industry.
The fact that billions of euros go directly and indirectly to the fossil industry every year is “pertinently wrong and undermines all climate policy,” GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver said. The money can be better spent on making homes more sustainable.
The party wants to end the exemption for processes that require a lot of energy and exemptions for coal. The reduced rate for greenhouse horticulture must also be scrapped. That proposal may get criticism from the right because greenhouse horticulture had a financially challenging year due to the high gas prices.
The party will submit the proposal in the parliamentary debate on the amendment of the climate law next week. The Cabinet is already planning to phase out fossil subsidies, but according to GroenLinks, it has taken “few concrete steps.”
Reporting by ANP and NL Times