Police use water cannons to disperse climate activists from the 'Extinction Rebellion' group blocking the Utrechtsebaan on the A12 route in The Hague, Netherlands, 09 September 2023. EPA-EFE/PHIL NIJHUIS

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Dutch police arrest record 2,400 Extinction Rebellion activists


Thousands of Extinction Rebellion climate activists blocked the A12 motorway near The Hague, Netherlands, at midday on September 9. They were demanding the end of what they claim are government subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry and pledged to occupy the road on a daily basis.

The blockade had been banned by city authorities ahead of the activists’ mass protest, and Dutch police had to step in, arresting around 2,400 demonstrators, dozens of whom were minors.

That beat the previous highest number of arrests that came during an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in May, when 1,587 climate activists were held.

Extinction Rebellion activists block the A12 motorway in The Hague on September 9. The climate activists say they will block the road every day until the Dutch Government stops “giving fossil-fuel subsidies” and say new protestors will replace the ones arrested by police. (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)
A climate-change activist holds up a sign during the A12 motorway blockade in protest at the Dutch Government’s “support” for the fossil-fuel industry. (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)
A climate activist reaches out to an inflatable Earth that bounced around at the A12 motorway blockade. (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)

Climate extremists say they are angry about fossil-fuel “subsidies”, with left-wing environmentalists claiming such subsidies are worth €17.5 billion to the fossil-fuel industry, a highly contested figure.

Those figures seem at odds with the official government stance, which is that it does not give financial support to companies involved in polluting activities.

In addition, the government said it wanted to avoid making the Netherlands and the wider European Union more dependent on those outside the bloc. One economic expert says the Dutch Government itself earns €35 billion in taxes from those fuels.

A climate activist carries a sign reading “Fossil Subsidies Are Not Cool” during the A12 motorway blockade. (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)
Extinction Rebellion activists were targeted by police using water cannons as they blocked the A12. (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)
Extinction Rebellion activists hit by a water cannon during the motorway blockade (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)

The police gave the activists 90 minutes for their protest and then demanded they left the motorway. The climate activists refused and the police turned on the water cannon: maybe not the worst thing to happen given the hot summer temperatures.

Officers then removed them one by one and transported them en masse by bus to ADO Den Haag’s football stadium. Most of the arrests related to violating the Public Demonstrations Act, which lists rules all protesters must abide by. Once at the stadium, most were released and will not be prosecuted, police said.

Some activists were also arrested for assault and vandalism and they are still in custody, although it is unclear how many.

An Extinction Rebellion activist is arrested by police at the A12 blockade. (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)
A climate change activist is sprayed by a police water cannon at the A12 blockade. (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)
Dutch police prepare to remove Extinction Rebellion climate activists from the A12. EPA-EFE/PHIL NIJHUIS

On September 10, there was another protest by climate activists on the Utrechtsebaan section of the A12, although only a couple of hundred took part. The police did make further arrests but many fewer than at the previous day’s protest.

The police took action against Extinction Rebellion climate activists blocking the Utrechtsebaan section of the A12 for a second consecutive day in The Hague, on September 10. Extinction Rebellion announced it intended to continue blocking the motorway daily. EPA-EFE/ROBIN UTRECHT
The police moved in against climate activists on the Utrechtsebaan section of the A12 route for a second consecutive day on September 10. EPA-EFE/ROBIN UTRECHT