Court bans climate activist from attending protest on Hague highway
The preliminary relief judge was unable to conclusively rule on Friday whether or not it was justified that the Public Prosecution Service (OM) denied a climate activist from accessing the Utrechtsebaan. The court decided against issuing an injunction against the OM's determination, meaning activist Lucas Winnips is still banned from attending the Extinction Rebellion (XR) demonstration on the A12 on Saturday. The court will fully handle the case on Tuesday after the
On Tuesday, the court will officially assess whether the OM was justified to impose the 90-day ban on Winnips that prevents him from being near the Utrechtsebaan - as that final stretch of the A12 highway in The Hague is called. The judge pointed out on Friday that Winnips is allowed to protest on the Malieveld, which is located along the A12. The OM previously said that Extinction Rebellion is also welcome there.
“Demonstrating is a fundamental right, a great asset in our democratic society,” said the judge. “But that right is not unlimited. If necessary, it may be limited.”
Winnips’ lawyer Willem Jebbink argued in the lawsuit that the OM’s restraining order was unjustified. Restricting the right to demonstrate is a power reserved for the mayor, Jebbink argued. Winnips said after the case that he was disappointed. “We had high hopes.”
On Thursday morning, the police arrested six other XR activists, accusing them of committing sedition by calling on people to join the protest against fossil fuel subsidies on the A12 highway next to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and the temporary parliament building on Saturday. The OM hit them with similar restraining orders.
The move got a great deal of criticism from other civil society organizations, as well as members of parliament - and not only from the left-wing opposition.
D66 parliamentarian Hind Dekker-Abdulaziz told NOS that the authorities arrested the activists even before they did anything. She called that shocking. “We live in a democratic country where you can demonstrate anywhere, even unannounced. So as far as I’m concerned, they have done nothing wrong.”
PvdD leader Christine Teunissen pointed out the unequal treatment between climate activists and farmers. “It cannot be the case that, on the one hand, there is a demonstration in which tractors cross the road facilitated by the police, and on the other hand, peaceful demonstrators are arrested even before they block a road. The right to demonstrate is at stake.”
GroenLinks posed parliamentary questions about the matter on Thursday. “Preventive detention” is at odds with freedom of demonstration, GroenLinks parliamentarians Corinne Ellemeet and Suzanne Kroger pointed out.
Nine civil society organizations pledged to join the Extinction Rebellion protest on Saturday following the activists’ arrest. "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.
Support for the Prosecutor
VVD parliamentarian Ingrid Michon-Derkzen supports the OM’s approach, she said to NOS. According to her, everyone is allowed to demonstrate, but the climate activists’ call was to occupy a public road. “That is sedition, and that is a criminal offense. I think it is very good that the OM is acting against it,” she said.
Accusations of double standards between climate activists and protesting farmers give her the “jitters,” she said. “Anyone who breaks the law encounters the police and OM. That has nothing to do with whether you demonstrate as a farmer or for the climate.”
Reporting by ANP and NL Times