The news quickly spread on social media: the Dutch police fired shots at a peasant protest near the city of Groningen on Tuesday. This is reported by the daily newspaper De Telegraaf.
Officials said the demonstrators had tried to steer their vehicles into officials and service cars, according to the police. According to their own statements, the police then fired targeted shots and warning shots. On Wednesday on the radio, the police spoke of an extremely threatening situation for the officers. Nobody was injured. Three people were arrested. Videos and photos that are supposed to show the incident are circulating on social media in a timely manner.
The background is nationwide protests by Dutch farmers, which have been escalating for days; since the beginning of this week there have also been increased infrastructure blockages.
In these hours, for example, farmers gather for a protest at Groningen Airport; in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday they blocked a distribution center of the food company Aldi. In the days before, more than 20 distribution centers of the large supermarket chains were affected by the walkouts, and photos on social media already seemed to show the first gaps on the shelves of the discounters. The Central Association of the Food Trade called the blockades “totally unacceptable” and spoke of the first supply bottlenecks.
Vacationers also felt the consequences of the protest. In the middle of the week, fishermen had also blocked the harbors with their boats in solidarity with the farmers. The ferries could not go to the islands for several hours, and holidaymakers had to expect long waiting times, the shipping companies warned. Europe’s largest port, the port of Rotterdam, was not affected by the actions.
Before the shots were fired on Tuesday evening, the worst escalation to date occurred on June 29th.
Demonstrators broke through police barriers in front of the home of Dutch Nature and Nitrogen Minister Christianne van der Wal. According to media reports, farmer activists dumped manure, damaged police cars, set fires and blocked highways. Earlier this week, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure issued recommendations to motorists to work from home if possible.
The peasant uprising was triggered by a legislative initiative in early June. Specialist portals such as agrarheute reported that the Dutch government wants to reduce nitrogen emissions by around half by 2030. In some regions, a reduction of almost 100 percent is planned in the long term. According to the government, the measures would lead to the end of a third of livestock farms. According to Agrarheute, with an export level of 105 billion euros, the Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products after the USA. Meat is a pillar of the Dutch economy; the Dutch keep about 4 million cattle, 12 million pigs and 100 million chickens
Together, these animals produce colossal amounts of nitrogen. Nitrogen is contained in the faeces of farm animals and reaches fields and environmental cycles via liquid manure fertilization. In high concentrations, nitrogen is an environmental toxin that, in the form of nitrate, pollutes groundwater resources. The higher the number of livestock, the higher the nitrogen and nitrate pollution in an area. Environmental groups have long criticized the fact that fields have become “disposal sites for excess manure”.
Despite the increasing radicalization of parts of the farmers’ protests and the government’s fundamental adherence to the nitrogen reduction plans, there have been signs of a rapprochement since last weekend. Then it became known that the former Deputy Prime Minister Johan Remke should mediate between the camps. The Dutch farmers’ association LTO was also willing to talk at the beginning of the week and condemned the incidents surrounding the escalated protests against Nature Minister van der Wal.
The more radical peasant group Agractie, however, was dissatisfied with the appointment of Remke as mediator; Holland’s Prime Minister Mark Rutte also rejects negotiations with radical groups. So far, a compromise has been conceivable, in which the various camps would have agreed, for example, on a change in the timetable for nitrogen reduction.
To what extent the shots on Tuesday evening will change the situation is unclear for the time being. According to the Dutch media, the parliamentary leader of the farmers’ movement Caroline van der Plas from the Farmers’ Citizens’ Movement (BBB) called for an “urgent debate” to be held with Rutte today, according to the Dutch media. So far, her request has gone unanswered.