Tractors are not allowed on the highway, yet farmer activists blocked highways again yesterday. New actions have also been announced for today, although so far it has remained with arson along the highway and announced protests in the House of Representatives.
The highway blockades are increasingly leading to anger and dissatisfaction, which is being expressed on social media, for example. On the A2, A7, A15, A28, A50 and A67, tractors drove on the road yesterday. “We can not get to the hospital with our daughter,” Heleen replies to the NOS Facebook page. “Thank you! Can we wait weeks again for an appointment with the pediatric cardiologist.”
“What this group of farmers is doing is nothing more than intimidating, forcing, blocking and trying to blackmail,” Wim replies to the aforementioned Facebook message. “It has nothing to do with democracy.”
People also express support for the peasants: “The whole country should go on strike, this is about everyone. Our land, our food,” says Deborah. Another says: “Unpleasant delay for others, but the reason is even more annoying for the peasants.”
‘It’s life threatening’
About 45 percent of the Dutch are fully behind the farmers’ protests, Trouw wrote last Wednesday on the basis of the analysis agency I&O. Since then, no new poll has been conducted, but Jan Brouwer, director of the Center for Public Order and Security, suspects that sympathy for the protesters has fallen.
“What the activists are doing now is causing inconvenience and financial harm to third parties who have nothing to do with making decisions about nitrogen approaches. That’s a bad thing.” Especially because it is also an illegal form of protest, Brouwer emphasizes.
“It’s life-threatening what they do,” adds traffic law attorney Bert Kabel. He knows from experience that an accident can happen when road users unexpectedly encounter a traffic jam or slow-moving traffic. Cable fears that it is only a matter of time before a fatal accident occurs as a result of agricultural vehicles on the road.
He refers to the collision between a tractor and a truck on the A12 last Wednesday, on the day of the big farmers’ protest. The 40-year-old driver of the tractor was seriously injured.
A2 and A7 were blocked yesterday with tractors and hay bales. Police and riot police intervened:
Farmers block A2 and A7 with hay bales
Last week, police handed out hundreds of fines to farmers’ activists who drove tractors on highways. Yesterday, an unknown number of fines were issued and at least one tractor was seized. Police also made an urgent appeal to farmers “to take their responsibility and not create dangerous traffic situations”.
Cable is seriously in doubt as to whether such a call will do anything. “Some of the farmers do not care, because they keep blocking highways. We must not accept that, otherwise you will get a form of lawlessness.”
The law provides more options for punishing highway obstruction, the lawyer explains. In extreme cases, someone can be sentenced to a maximum of nine years in prison under Article 162 of the Criminal Code. However, according to Kabel, such a severe punishment can only be imposed if there is a death.
The so-called ‘blocking friezes’, for example, have been condemned on the basis of Article 162. Fifteen people were sentenced to 90 hours of community service on appeal for stopping a bus full of anti-Black Pete activists on the highway.
Registration required soon
People driving on the motorway with a tractor can also be fined, work or community service orders for other conditions. For example, to drive onto a highway, but also to ignore police directions.
Brouwer suspects that from 1 July, stronger action will be taken against tractor blockades. From then on, agricultural vehicles are required to carry a registration number. “If these activists are no longer anonymous, tractors can be more easily seized,” Brouwer said.