In The Hague, water cannons vehicles were present to the A12 blockade of the climate activism group Extinction Rebellion. The group of around 2.700 people peacefully protested against state subsidies of €17.5 billion for fossil fuels. The employment of water cannons was interpreted as a further increase in tensions between the government and the protesters.
12 pm. This Saturday, protesters blocked the traffic of the A12 through sit-ins. At 5 am. The police started arresting protesters and attempted to disperse the crowd by using water cannons. “What you can see here is the old world, the conservative world, clinging onto power vs the young world full of hopes awaiting to be crushed,” described Wanja, 30, part of the Wellbeing team of XR. Next to him, the water cannons faced people screaming, “Climate justice. Now!”.
During the blockade, the protest was an assembly of a colourful crowd. Toilet paper-clothed people sang peacefully with people carrying life-sized crosses, violin players, and drivers of pony carriages. The protest’s atmosphere was reminiscent of an unconventional musical, with catchy chants such as “Leave the oil in the ground” and “People gonna rise like water”.
The cause for the protest is the 17.5 billion euros the Dutch government spends yearly on fossil fuel subsidies. The subsidies reduce the tax payments of companies such as Shell and Tata Steel and exclude industries such as the aircraft industry from value-added tax. To end these privileges for climate-harming industries, and reinvest the gained tax money into sustainable climate policies,. “Climate Angst. It is a fear I have for the future of my grandchildren. I really don’t want to be here and be arrested, but since the planet is still dying…,” 66-year-old Romey said, holding a banner pleading for “Please arrest real criminals”.
The protest this Saturday highlights an increase of supporters for XR. Beyond XR’s expectations, the number of protesters was twice as much as of the last A12 occupation in January. “This protest is one of the biggest held in The Hague,” said Dirk, a spokesperson for the police and employed by them for 20 years.
The Hague’s Major Jan van Zanen considered this a good enough reason to borrow German water cannons, as the Netherlands themselves don’t own such vehicles. Up to today, their employment was unprecedented in answering the protests of XR. “I really don’t hope we need to use those,” added Dirk. The presence of water cannons was opposed by some police officers. A police officer who preferred to remain anonymous called the canons “a little inflated”.
XR’s spokesperson Evaline, 29, interprets the presence of water cannons as a step towards escalation. “Water cannons are very scary, and people who are scared do dumb stuff. Conflict is just more probable if you arrive with those at a peaceful protest.”
Fear for the water cannons vehicles before their employment was scarce. Rather, the protesters read books in front of their wheels. “They are building a human shield, just in case,” Evaline said.
Image from Unsplash.com
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