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Dutch police fire water cannons and detain thousands of protesters in fossil fuel roadblock

Dutch police uses a water cannon to disperse protestors who blocked a highway during a climate protest on Saturday 9 September 2023.
Dutch police uses a water cannon to disperse protestors who blocked a highway during a climate protest on Saturday 9 September 2023. Copyright AP Photo/Peter Dejong
Copyright AP Photo/Peter Dejong
By Euronews Green with AP
Published on Updated
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Thousands of climate activists have been arrested while protesting against fossil fuel subsidies in the Netherlands.

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Over 3,000 climate activists have been arrested during this week's protests in the Netherlands.

Several thousand climate activists blocked a Dutch highway on Saturday and Sunday before police dispersed them with water cannons. 

The chaos has continued throughout this week, with hundreds of demonstrators obstructing a motorway near The Hague.

Protestors expressed their anger at billions of euros in government subsidies for industries that use oil, coal and gas.

A report last week detailed €37.5 billion in such subsidies in the Netherlands, notably related to the shipping industry, prompting calls for a quick end to the practice.

AP Photo/Peter Dejong
Protestors display banners reading "stop Fossil Subsidies" as they gather with the intent to block a highway during a climate protest in the Netherlands, 9 September 2023.AP Photo/Peter Dejong

The protesters - from Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace and other organisations - broke through a police barrier Saturday morning and sat on a main road in The Hague heading to the temporary venue for the lower house of parliament.

They threatened to stay until the subsidies are lifted, and to come back every day if the police remove them.

“This is much larger than any one of us. This concerns the whole world,” activist Yolanda de Jager said.

Thousands of protestors were detained

On Saturday, the activists brandished signs with sayings like “Fossil fuel subsidies are not cool”, and warned that the extreme temperatures seen around the world this summer are a sign of the future, if fossil fuels aren’t abandoned.

After several hours, police moved in and fired volleys from water cannons at the crowd, and picked up or dragged some protesters off, wheeling them away in special orange wagons.

Protesters on the front line held up their fists in resistance or put their heads down to protect themselves from the jets of water. Those farther back danced and jumped up and down under the spray, appearing to enjoy the shower on an unusually hot September day for the Netherlands.

Of the approximately 10,000 activists who took part in the protest on Saturday, around 2,400 were detained for breaching demonstration laws.

The roadblock is part of a series of protests led by Extinction Rebellion targeting the Dutch parliament.

AP Photo/Peter Dejong
A protestor holds a sign reading "Fossil Subsidies Are Not Cool" as they block a highway during a climate protest in the Netherlands, 9 September 2023.AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Dutch activists demand an end to fossil fuel subsidies

The report published Monday said the Dutch government spends tens of billions per year in subsidies to industries that use fossil fuels. It was published by the The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, known as SOMO, the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth and Oil Change International.

The country is often seen as a leader in renewable energy and progressive climate policies, and Minister for Climate and Energy Rob Jetten acknowledged that the country has to end the subsidies, but has offered no timeline.

The report calls on lawmakers to begin phasing out the subsidies before the country’s 22 November general election.

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