THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch prime minister on Wednesday condemned a violent protest by farmers outside the home of the country’s agriculture minister amid increasingly bold demonstrations against the government’s plans to rein in pollution.
A small group of farmers clashed Tuesday night with police stationed outside the home of Christianne van der Wal, the Cabinet minister overseeing the Netherlands’ reforms to curb pollution. They spread manure on a nearby street. At another protest, farmers attacked a police car. Several arrests were made.
The violence capped a second straight day of protests that included torching bales of hay near roads and blocking highways across the country with slow-driving or parked tractors.
The protests resumed Wednesday with dozens of tractors briefly blocking a highway close to the German border, traffic authorities said.
The Netherlands’ lucrative agricultural sector is protesting against a proposal, approved by lawmakers Tuesday, to reduce emissions of pollutants like nitrogen oxide and ammonia by 50% by 2030.
Provincial governments were given a year to draw up ways of making the cuts, which are expected to include buying out some farms with livestock that produce large amounts of ammonia.
Farmers argue they are being unfairly targeted and shown little concern for their futures.
Christian Democrat lawmaker Derk Boswijk tweeted Wednesday that he was staying home after his family, including his 4- and 7-year-old children, “received a visit.” He added: “This way of demonstrating serves no purpose. Stop it!”
“You can demonstrate, but in a civilized way,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said from a NATO summit in Madrid. “So don’t block highways, don’t set off fireworks outside a minister’s house and spread manure and … scare two children, and endanger families.”
The Dutch national police chief also weighed in, saying officers have fined dozens of farmers in recent days and prevented more road blockades.
“The right to demonstrate is a great asset, but there are limits to it,” police commander Willem Woelders said. “If there is a disturbance of public order or criminal offenses are committed, we will take action.”
Police said they arrested 10 protesters Tuesday in the eastern Netherlands and charged them with offenses ranging from public violence to attempted manslaughter.
“It is unacceptable how, in some places in our unit, police officers have been attacked and cornered,” Janny Knol, the police chief in the eastern Netherlands, said.
According to a national farm lobbying group, LTO, there are nearly 54,000 agricultural businesses in the Netherlands with exports totaling 94.5 billion euros (about $99 million) in 2019.
The protest at Van der Wal’s home came on the eve of an announcement by the government that it planned to criminalize the practice, known as doxing, of publishing online personal details such as home addresses as a means of intimidation.
The legislation is part of a broader package of measures announced by the Justice and Security Ministry that it says is intended to safeguard the freedom of the press.