Leo (37) from Beilen coordinated the first ‘northern’ A12 blockade of Extinction Rebellion: ‘Children aged 5 or 6 often already have their own opinion’

For the fourth time, Extinction Rebellion activists blocked the A12 near The Hague. Leo van Kampenhout (37) from Beilen was the coordinator of the action on Tuesday. “Yes, I was arrested too.”

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a movement of climate activists. XR believes that they are strengthening their demands with ‘creative, peaceful and sometimes disruptive actions’, so that the government takes what they consider to be ‘necessary and unavoidable measures’. For example, they will continue with a blockade of the highway in The Hague until subsidies on fossil energy are abolished.

Leo, satisfied with the first blockade of the A12, which was coordinated by the XR department of Drenthe, Friesland and Groningen?

“Yes, there were 300 people. That is the number we expect for the weekdays. It will probably be full again at the weekend. And for a weekday, I think there were slightly more Drenthes, Frisians and Groningers.”

Arrested yourself?

,,Yes. Together with 200 others. I was also a spokesperson for the police. By the way, we were quickly trapped by the police at an intersection on Tuesday. In my opinion, this unnecessarily created even more traffic chaos.”

An angry driver hit a radio reporter and got into a fight with the police. Do you understand the anger of people who are bothered by your actions?

“I haven’t seen it, but I have heard it. It is nice that the police are there and if angry bystanders cannot be pacified, they also offer us protection in these types of situations. I understand the anger of people who have to do urgent business and are brought to a standstill by our blockade. But, that also happens when a marathon is held. And the advantage of our actions is that we announce them and you can plan your work, your trip or whatever around them.”

Safe at Home

This week the police also arrested very young children who had been taken by their parents. The police reported this to the child protection organization Veilig Thuis.

How do you actually see that, taking young children to or using them for a demonstration?

“There are parents who do that. Our son is four, he was not with us today. But I also took him to a promotion when he was two or three. I don’t think I would have him arrested.”

But legally speaking, children are only allowed to make all their own decisions from the age of twelve and are they free to go where they want?

,,Is that right? I don’t actually know. We don’t demand that. We don’t have any rules for that per se. Everyone is free to do so. Children of five or six years old often have their own opinion, right?”

White people

Then one more issue. Affluent white people can afford to be arrested during an XR demonstration, while for people of color this leads to problems when applying for jobs and in their further lives. This was said by actress and writer Maryam Hassouni and social scientist Karen Bell this weekend de Volkskrant .

How do you see this criticism from Hassouni and Bell?

“I agree with that, for us white people it is indeed a privilege. Minorities, people with a different skin color or orientation are much more vulnerable, especially in these types of situations where you have to deal with police and other legal violence. We at XR are also very aware of this. We also see that the police consciously arrest certain people first during our blockades and demonstrations. For example, someone in a wheelchair is immediately singled out. No idea why they do that.”

And now, when will the North be blockading again?

“We are scheduled for September 23, the entire month has already been divided. And we are already working on planning for October. And of course XR will be back in The Hague on Wednesday to block the A12.”

Children’s Ombudsman about children and blockages

After the interview, Leo Van Kampenhout sends an article from the newspaper Fidelity, in which the children’s ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer something about young children and demonstrating says: In any case, children have the right to demonstrate and it is responsible as long as the child does not end up in an unsafe situation . And furthermore: the more a child is affected by a subject, the more important it is for a child to say something about it.”