OM defends preventive arrests for demonstration on A12
Gerrit van der Burg of the Office of the Public Prosecutor (OM) believes that "the protests are getting grimmer and grimmer" and, in an interview with NRC, defended the preventive arrests of climate activists that have now been made more than a week ago. Regarding criticism of the eight controversial arrests, Van der Burg told the newspaper, "These arrests are based on suspicion of incitement, a criminal offense. And we arrested them in the most low-level way possible."
Van der Burg, chairman of the Prosecutor General's Office, responded in the newspaper interview to the decision by the prosecutor's office to make precautionary arrests of the climate protesters who allegedly called for the blockade of the A12 last week. They were released but banned from the area. Last Saturday, on the day of the Extinction Rebellion demonstration, 768 people were arrested, most of them for blocking the road.
The Human Rights Committee ruled this week that the right to demonstrate is under "serious pressure" because of the preventive arrests. "The right to demonstrate is of enormous importance to us," Van der Burg said. "For us, it is an important principle to live this right and other fundamental rights every day anew. At the same time, when I read that the OM was intimidating and arbitrary, those are very big words. We also acted during farmers' protests. We made dozens of arrests, in some cases even in advance. Also for sedition."
According to the chairman, "it almost seems like the intention of climate activists is to get arrested. "They are making it as difficult as possible for us, with chains and glue," the OM chief told NRC. Although he said the climate activists did not use physical force last weekend, "they hindered the officers in their work," including by taping their fingers to delay identity capture. Their goal, he claimed, increasingly seems to be, "We will commit crimes. Or we will challenge authority."
The decision to arrest the protesters on suspicion of sedition had been met with criticism in the days leading up to the demonstration. In response to the arrests, several civil society organizations announced a support action on the viaduct over the A12. Previously, the prosecutor's office had announced in a response that it was "evaluating" the run-up to the blockade.
Reporting by ANP