AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch farmers went on a go-slow in their tractors on Tuesday, clogging up major highways in the Netherlands as they headed to The Hague to demonstrate about what they complain is an attempt to make them the scapegoats over nitrogen pollution.
Around 10,000 farmers are planning a protest in the city, home to the Dutch government, to argue they are unfairly being blamed after a court ruling found the country is violating European emission rules.
“Farmers and growers are sick of being painted as a ‘problem’ that needs a ‘solution’,” Dirk Bruins of the agricultural industry group LTO said in a statement.
Although no concrete steps against farmers have been announced, at least one political party has suggested the country reduce the number of live animals it produces, leading to an outcry from farming groups.
Many building projects across the country have also been halted as the role of construction industry as the possible cause of the pollution also comes under the spotlight.
Road and drivers’ organisation ANWB said more than more than 1,000 km (600 miles) of roadways were snarled by the tractors, contributing to what it called the worst morning commute in Dutch history.
Police in The Hague said they had detained two demonstrators, one who drove over a fence with his tractor and another who attempted to interfere with his detention.
“The police respect that farmers are standing up for their interest and we’re trying to facilitate this demonstration with hundreds of tractors as well as possible,” the police said in a statement, pleading for drivers to follow the instructions of traffic guides on the scene.
The Hague Mayor Pauline Krikke called a meeting of safety officials to discuss the situation.
“Some of the farmers in The Hague are driving over barriers, which causes damage and unsafe situations,” her office said in a statement.
“It’s in the interest of all that this demonstration today be allowed to proceed in peace and safety.”
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alison Williams)