XR to court over water cannon use during A12 protests; verdict on October 13
The use of water cannons against Extinction Rebellion protesters seems primarily aimed at "abuse and humiliation," serving "no legitimate purpose," argued the lawyers defending the climate activist group in a court case against the State over police using water canons. They claimed on Tuesday in the court in The Hague that it is entirely unclear on what grounds the police are using these water cannons. For this reason, they believe the use should either cease or, at the very least, be restricted.
Since September 9, Extinction Rebellion has been organizing protests on the A12 by blocking the highway. Their goal is to pressure the Dutch government to abandon policies supporting the fossil fuel industry. The activist group announced last week that it would file summary proceedings against the State to prohibit the use of water cannons during these protests through legal means.
Waterwerpers staan extreem hard op de #a12 vandaag, demonstranten wordt geadviseerd hun tas achter hun rug te doen om hun nieren te beschermen #extinctionrebellion @NLRebellion pic.twitter.com/WfEl2LHjIP— Kelli van der Waals (@KellivdWaals) September 23, 2023
"There is no guideline that clearly states under which circumstances a water cannon can be used," said attorney Jaantje Kramer. She pointed to rulings from the European Court of Human Rights, suggesting that there should be clear instructions and precautions in place to avoid potential misuse.
The intention behind a water cannon is to counteract riots and unrest by dispersing crowds, Kramer explained. On the A12 highway, the police continuously use it against protesters who are arrested shortly after. "The police know that the protesters won't be dispersed by it." Therefore, the water cannon's use is deemed unnecessary and "not proportional" by the plaintiffs.
Water cannons are an "intrusive means of force," said Kramer. She listed examples of injuries sustained from their use. For example, a woman in Eindhoven in 2021 suffered a skull fracture when she was hit by a water cannon and struck her head against a wall. In Turkey, someone was blinded.
During the A12 protests, Extinction Rebellion claimed individuals suffered bruises. Such injuries are "disproportionate" compared to the non-violent actions of the protesters, Kramer argued.
Waterkanonnen worden geleegd op klimaatactivisten die de A12 bij Den Haag blokkeren. pic.twitter.com/gZijpQC3iM— Omroep West (@omroepwest) September 9, 2023
However, the municipality of The Hague and the Dutch State believe that the use of water cannons during the A12 incidents is justified. According to the state attorney, prohibiting their use would significantly limit the mayor's powers. She argued that the police do follow specific conditions and require "flexibility."
Officers are trained to only use the most powerful jet stream when, for example, individuals are committing violent acts. "That was never the case during the XR demonstrations," the state attorney stated. During one of the actions, she admitted that some protesters were unintentionally hit with the harder "focused stream." The intention was to spray the road surface, but Extinction Rebellion questions this.
Footage showed that a water cannon was used against a few remaining protesters. Kramer said it is "entirely unclear" why they were not simply arrested.
The court will deliver its verdict on October 13.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times