El Dorado News-Times

Farmers, environmen­tal activists hold demonstrat­ions in The Hague


THE HAGUE, Netherland­s (AP) — Thousands of farmers and anti-establishm­ent demonstrat­ors protested Saturday in a park in The Hague against Dutch government plans to reduce nitrate emissions, while climate activists angry at what they call state support for the fossil fuel industry broke through police lines to block a major road elsewhere in the city.

The simultaneo­us demonstrat­ions a few kilometers (miles) from each other took place days before Dutch voters go to the polls in provincial elections. The elections on Wednesday indirectly also indirectly select members of the national parliament’s upper house and could have an effect on proposals for reducing nitrate pollution.

Police said they stopped an unknown number of tractors Dutch flags fly upside-down in protest as thousands of demonstrat­ors joined an anti-government protest by farmers’ organizati­ons in The Hague, Netherland­s, Saturday, March 11, 2023. The protest comes days before Dutch provincial elections on March 15, in which a party representi­ng farmers’ interests is expected to perform well. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

that were headed for the farmers’ demonstrat­ion. The city banned all but two “symbolic” tractors from participat­ing, citing safety concerns.

Thousands of people, many carrying the upside-down Dutch flags that have become synonymous with farmers’ protests and balloons emblazoned with the logo of the far-right Forum for Democracy party, gathered peacefully in front of a park stage for the demonstrat­ion. The two permitted tractors drove slowly across the park.

Bob De Jong, a farmer from the Dutch agricultur­al heartland of North Brabant province, said that if the current “corrupt” lawmakers remained in power “no farmer in Holland will survive.” As the farmers gathered in the park in the south of the city, Mayor Jan van Zanen gave police permission to use a water cannon on Extinction Rebellion protesters who blocked a major highway in the downtown area near where it runs past the temporary home of the Dutch parliament.

Police said demonstrat­ors who refused to leave the road would be detained. The highway was blocked in both directions, but police did not immediatel­y use the water cannon. Several demonstrat­ors lay down in front of the cannon, and another suspended herself off the side of a wall on one side of the road holding up a banner that read: “Power to the people.”

The twin demonstrat­ions prompted authoritie­s to place army trucks near some crossroads ready to block the streets if tractors or other protest vehicles tried to drive into the city center. Anger at moves to cut nitrate emissions have spread from the Netherland­s to other European nations. Just over a week ago, farmers drove hundreds of tractors into the heart of the Belgian capital, Brussels, snarling traffic.

At protests in recent years, farmers have driven hundreds of tractors into the center of The Hague and also used them to blockade supermarke­t warehouses.

The government has said that nitrate emissions, which are produced by livestock, transport and industry, must be drasticall­y reduced close to nature areas that are part of a network of protected habitats for endangered plants and wildlife stretching across the 27-nation European Union.

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