Hate speech against police officers on social networks. Sagittarius called in sick. Police want to compensate for damage to the tractor.
Man is a social being. What that means can be seen in the escalating farmer protests in the Netherlands.
Farmers should reduce their nitrogen emissions to protect the environment. This means, above all, a reduction in livestock. However, many farmers do not want to accept this and have been blocking roads, airports and distribution centers for supermarkets across the country for weeks. On Monday I was temporarily unable to leave a Frisian island, which is also popular with German holidaymakers, when fishermen blocked the ports.
The protests reached their peak so far when a police officer shot at a tractor last Tuesday (Cattle breeding or environmental protection? Dutch farmer protests are escalating). It is now clear that several such vehicles were parked in a police blockade on the A32 near Heerenveen. However, tractors are not allowed on the Autobahn. Therefore, drivers should be fined.
When a vehicle swerved out of the cordon, police officers ran over, guns drawn. An officer shot the tractor twice. This was driven by the 16-year-old farmer’s son Jouke. He and two other men were then arrested by the police. The accusation was: suspicion of attempted manslaughter.
After a night and a day in police custody, Jouke was released. Eventually, the public prosecutor dropped the case. As is usual with police shootings, the state police are now investigating the police officer’s reaction.
The aftermath of the events shows the human side: many of the 4,000 police officers in the north of the Netherlands – the provinces of Drenthe, Groningen and Friesland – come from farming families themselves. In their family and circle of acquaintances, they have to answer for police work every day.
An interview with police chief Gery Veldhuis has now appeared in the daily NRC. In it he explains that it would have been “quite dramatic” if the bullet had hit the 16-year-old. The bullet only missed the farm boy by a few centimetres. Due to the ongoing investigations by the state police, he could not comment on factual questions.
He still described the incident as a “misjudgment”. His employees assumed that the driver wanted to use the tractor as a weapon. When the police officer shot, he said he wanted to protect his colleagues from the vehicle. He didn’t know that a 16-year-old was behind the wheel.
The police chief describes how his employees were hounded on social media afterwards. A police officer from Heerenveen was identified as the shooter. But that is wrong. Nevertheless, the man is now being threatened. In fact, media previously reported that a local police officer had gone into hiding.
Police chief Veldhuis reports speaking to the employee who shot the tractor on Thursday. He is doing badly and is currently unable to do his job.
The farm boy’s parents are considering filing a complaint against the police officer. But the police give them back the tractor and want to replace the damage to the windshield. The 16-year-old Jouke wanted to speak to the police officer – and the police officer wanted that too.
To restore order, the police in Friesland once used tear gas last week. If the blockades continue, the protesters’ tractors and other agricultural vehicles will increasingly be confiscated.
Environmental Protection Award
But the government in The Hague is also asked. After the publication of their nitrogen plans in June, the situation escalated vehemently. In order to reduce emissions, which is also required by European legislation, construction projects have already been halted and motor vehicles are being forced to slow down.
Meanwhile, false reports are circulating online that the government’s plans are jeopardizing the population’s food supply. On the one hand, farmers export most of their products to other EU countries. And on the other hand, scientists explain that, on the contrary, inadequate environmental protection endangers the food supply.
Too much nitrogen from manure and other fertilizers threatens plant and species diversity in water, on land and in the air. The Dutch government now wants to enforce stricter limits, especially in the vicinity of nature reserves. This particularly affects farmers who cultivate fields and keep livestock there.
Note: This article also appears in the author’s Blog “Menschen-Bilder”.