Dutch farmers were back on the road en masse on Tuesday like on Monday. This to draw attention to the nitrogen reduction bill that will mean drastic changes to the future of farming. A law mandating a reduction in nitrogen has already passed both houses of Parliament. Today the house of commons debated the measures that must bring said reduction about. The government was backed by a majority in the house.
In various places, highways were blocked again today. Motorists are grumbling or remaining calm in long traffic jams. Yet the militant farmers do not yet seem to fear a loss of sympathy.
“Characteristically, protest entails a disturbance of public order,” says Jacquelien van Stekelenburg in the radio program Wakker!. She is Professor of Social Change and Conflict at the University of Amsterdam. “At the same time, we do see that a kind of ‘seesaw movement’ occurs. If people are constantly told they will have to accept theses traffic jams, at a certain point they lose their sympathy for the protesters and their cause.”
violence and radicalisation
According to Van Stekelenburg, the moment the situation changes will depend on the initial level of sympathy. Three years ago, it was even above 80 percent. This means that they can disrupt public order for a very long time and get in people’s way, before we will see a change in public sympathy. But the moment they start using violence or start taking more radical actions, such as visiting politicians’private homes, an accelerating downwad trend starts.
Compared to the farmers in other EU countries such as France and Spain, Dutch farmers are still quite well-behaved. In those countries McDonalds branches were set on fire, for example. But taking one’s tools [?] out into the street or occupying highways are rather standard activities.”
And according to the professor, Dutch farmers should also keep it that way. “The sympathy is so high. They get a lot of media coverage. That is always one of the most important reasons to demonstrate: to have one’s voice heard. Demonstrating is communicating.”
Translated by: Shanthi Ramani
Edited by Greta Timmers