Thousands of Dutch farmers drove their tractors to The Hague on Thursday to protest against the government’s proposals to cut nitrogen emissions by halving the country’s livestock or cutting nitrogen output by 70%.
The farmers say they are unfairly targeted by the new carbon emissions reduction legislation and that they lack respect and support from the public, media, and politicians. They also demand less government regulation, more pro-farmer policies, and more accountability for other polluting industries like Shell and Tata Steel.
The protest comes days before the Dutch provincial elections on March 15, in which a party representing farmers’ interests, the Farmers and Citizens Movement (BBB), is expected to perform well. The BBB leader Caroline Van der Plas said the government needed to look at “how many genuine asylum seekers the Netherlands can reasonably cope with” and that the country should not be “a dumping ground for refugees”.
The farmers’ protest was peaceful but caused traffic disruptions as police stopped some tractors from entering the city. The protesters carried banners reading “No farmers, no food,” and “There is no nitrogen ‘problem’” during the demonstration organized by the Farmers’ Defence Force group. Many also waved upside-down Dutch flags, which have become synonymous with farmers’ protests, and balloons with the logo of the far-right Forum for Democracy (FVD) party.
Meanwhile, climate activists held a simultaneous demonstration a few kilometers away. Thousands of environmentalists blocked a major thoroughfare in an unauthorized protest against tax rules they say encourage the use of fossil fuels. Police used water cannon to disperse a group of about 100 of activists, including many who were blocking a highway. Environmentalists, led by the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, scaled a wall next to the road they had blocked to hang a banner reading “Stop fossil subsidies”. Protesters are demanding an end to fuel tax exemptions for oil refineries and coal plants, introduced to avoid double taxation, as well as exemptions for the aviation and shipping industries that were agreed at the EU level.
The twin demonstrations prompted authorities to place army trucks near some crossroads to block the streets if tractors or other protest vehicles tried to drive into the city center.