It had been in the books of farmers for a while, but little attention was paid to it by the media. Most people didn’t know a large scale protest was coming until a morning traffic record was broken. Tractors on all highways!
Thousands of Dutch farmers drove tractors along highways causing major traffic jams, as part of their protest campaign against what they say are attempts to blame them for nitrogen pollution.
People woke up greeted with over 375km (233 miles) of traffic. (The average amount is 6km) Note: they weren’t blocking the highways, they were just on their way to parliament, on their tractors (Slow).
Despite initial confusion, people were not mad at the farmers.
The farmers gave harsh climate change and environmental protection laws as their primary goal, also complaining about being treated as lower-class by media elites. The media ran with the latter.
The destination of the farmers was the Malieveld, a field near parliament. The government originally said only a few tractors were allowed on the field, which was later changed to 75.
Several politicians ended up visiting to hold speeches about their opinions. Some of these planned and on a stage, some of them among the farmers, not much was agreed upon. Most leftists stuck to their policies, most centrist and ‘right-wing’ parties released statements supporting the farmers, but they were loose words and the strict environmental laws weren’t changed.
Various small scale protests took place afterward, but on the 14th of October, the farmers went out in larger numbers again. This time the goal was occupying the provincial houses, in an attempt to repeal the laws.
Soon after the farmers arrived, the provincial house of Friesland announced they would repeal the controversial nitrogen agreements. Only one province though.
The other provinces didn’t budge as quickly. With all the commotion, nothing violent happened.
Many of the less urban provinces repealed the environmental laws. The very diverse and urbanite provinces refused co-operation altogether. One of the most farmer-rich provinces was keeping out, however. Groningen (top right) would not give a response.
The farmers made a quick ultimatum. “Let us in the provincial house to discuss this, or we’re going in ourselves.” – They went in themselves, only to be stopped by the police.
Groningen kept the nitrogen measures and didn’t discuss anything. In the end, half the provinces did repeal the laws, so it was a successful day for the farmers.
There was another large scale protest near parliament on the 16th of October. This one was announced well in advance and most people knew about it.
The entire grid was clogged with tractors. Despite attracting more protestors than the last, the grid handled it better. People were expecting it
People around the country came to watch the farmers drive by and cheered them on.
The excessive reaction of the police and government was out of place. Nothing really violent had happened aside from various fences being run over.
The message this day was the same. Repeal the strict laws against farmers, and respect the farmer. A very apolitical message it would seem.
While the protests themselves were quite meaningless in their origin, nitrogen pollution laws, the catalyst here is the big divide between the more urban and more rural parts of the Netherlands.
Although no concrete steps against the farmers have been announced, one political party has suggested the Netherlands reduce the number of live animals it produces, leading to an outcry from farming groups.
It seems these protests would go on for a while.