After A12 blockade: XR satisfied and says it made history, criticizes use of water cannons
The climate activist group Extinction Rebellion looks back with partial satisfaction on Saturday's climate demonstration that occupied the A12 highway in The Hague. At the same time, however, the activists also saw some things that did not go well in their opinion, a spokesperson claimed Sunday.
According to the XR spokesperson, Saturday's demonstration made history. About 3,000 people blocked the A12, and another 2,000 participants were present outside the blockade. "We really made a stand against fossil subsidies," the spokesperson believes.
But some things did not go well, said the spokesperson, who herself participated in the blockade. For example, she explained that the police were brutal, the use of a water cannon was disproportionate, and even people who were not on the A12 were sprayed with water. "At one point, a group stood in front of the water cannon that wanted to drive, so that the water cannon could no longer spray people who were standing on the side. As a result, the riot police intervened and things got very rough. Two people were hit in the face, one of them probably suffered a concussion. We were knocked over, we were pulled so that we fell over each other. While we were just standing there."
The activist also finds the use of a water cannon against "peaceful protesters" strange. The so-called triangle of mayor, police and prosecutor's office has a duty to use the least possible means, she said. "And in this case, that would have been: arrest everyone and take them into custody, not use the water cannon against peaceful demonstrators."
About 700 activists were arrested at the demonstration. Many of them had wet clothes because of the water cannon. The police previously reported that the activists received dry clothing after arriving at the police station, but the spokesperson for the climate movement contradicts this.
According to the spokesperson, only 14 people received dry clothes. "Hundreds of people have sat on the desk in wet clothes for hours, people have been put on the street shivering. I don't know exactly when someone is really hypothermic, but I'm now getting messages from people who say they only now feel a little warm again," said the spokesperson around 10.45 a.m.
On Twitter, XR spokesperson Anne Kervers wrote that the police blocked access to the drying tents where people were able to go after being sprayed with water, which could therefore only be reached with a detour.
De politie blokkeerde wel degelijk de toegang naar de tenten, die waren daardoor alleen met een omweg te bereiken.— Anne Kervers (@anne_kervers) March 12, 2023
Er zijn 14 mensen in de droogtent geholpen, er hebben 700 mensen in natte kleding soms wel urenlang op het bureau gezeten, velen met verschijnselen van onderkoeling https://t.co/HjU6Pb8qaj
However, it was clear to everyone in advance that a blockade of the A12 was not allowed, said the spokesperson for the mayor of The Hague, Jan van Zanen, in response to criticism from Extinction Rebellion.
Since Extinction Rebellion announced the action in the media, attempts have been made to get in touch with the organization "and to make agreements about a safe course of the demonstration", said the spokesperson for the municipality. In a letter last Tuesday, mayor Van Zanen indicated that a blockade of the A12 is not allowed. An alternative location was also offered.
In addition, flyers were also distributed among activists who arrived in The Hague that blocking the Utrechtsebaan on Saturday morning, is not allowed, according to the spokesperson.
When activists nevertheless tried to enter the A12 at noon, a "situation was so threatening for police personnel and horses" that the water cannons were driven forward, the spokesperson said. "Then several times progress was made and it was indicated that the water throwers could be deployed." According to a live blog kept by the police on Saturday, the mayor gave permission around noon to use the water cannon, with a spray beam, to "ensure the safety of the police and emergency services".
Finally, four hours later, from 4 p.m., "it was clearly indicated that the action had to be disbanded at 5 p.m. Activists, often with children, were approached personally. Furthermore, various calls and demands were made to activists to voluntarily end the action. "At around 5.10 p.m., the water cannon was used on 'mist mode' against activists who refused to leave.
Even when the action was disbanded, it was always indicated that the demonstrators could end their action and that medical care was available to prevent any hypothermia, according to the spokesperson. "For this purpose, a shelter street has been set up by the fire brigade and the GHOR (security region). Activists who nevertheless chose to remain seated were arrested and transported to the detainee shelter in warm buses." According to the spokesperson, GHOR personnel and the Red Cross were present there to provide medical care and blankets and warm clothes were available to everyone, the spokesperson said.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times