Farmers lighting a pyre on the A1 near Holten. Farmers blocking the A28 at Staphorst with tractors. Farmers standing on the doorstep of the provincial government or the home of Minister Van der Wal. Last week’s farmers’ actions require police deployment. Sometimes fines are issued, sometimes agents opt for an interview, after which the demonstrators leave, such as Monday in Best.
Also read: Scared cows in front of the Chamber, burning hay bales on the road
Since the actions take place throughout the country, the National Staff for Large-Scale and Special Action (NSGBO) in Driebergen is coordinated. The NSGBO is formed in the event of large-scale events that transcend unity, large-scale disruptions to the rule of law or imminent crisis situations with a national impact. The structure was also rigged at the curfew riots or Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The advantage is that it is possible to see where there is a need for extra or less manpower.
According to a spokesperson for the National Police force management, the structure means that there are “common principles”, but that these are always implemented on the spot. She states that the approach is discussed by the local triangle (mayor, police and Public Prosecution Service), but that much also depends on police officers on the street who assess a situation. For example, it is sometimes decided on location to de-escalate and sometimes to hand out fines. “Police work is custom work. A national coordination does not mean that we are going letter that we want to hand out a lot of fines today. That always depends on the situation at a location.”
Jan Struijs, chairman of the Dutch Police Union, sees that the farmers’ protests demand a lot from police officers. This is due to the unpredictability and because the actions are ‘fragmented’, which means that many agents have to be on standby. This is at the expense of their regular work, Struijs sees. “As a result, safety in the Netherlands is at stake, because the police who are ready throughout the country are not in the neighborhoods.” Struijs believes that the farmer’s campaigns go “far over the line”. “You shouldn’t want to make your point by disrupting authority figures or disrupting a society. And that is happening now.”
Still, it is understandable that the police act in a de-escalating manner in many farmers’ actions, Struijs believes. “You can arrest all the farmers on a state highway, but then their tractors are still there and you spend five hours removing those vehicles.”
Also read this article: Massive farmers’ protest puts coalition parties under high tension
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of June 29, 2022