UvA students Marlou Sprinkhuizen (22, Biomedical Sciences) and ‘Daniel’ (Philosophy) joined Extinction Rebellion in blockading the Stadhouderskade on Monday. ‘A climate strike is just a two-hour walk. This has more impact.’
A few hundred protesters from Extinction Rebellion, a climate-focused action group, began their blockade of the Stadshouderskade at the Rijksmuseum on Monday. According to Daniel, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, previous climate protests didn’t change anything. ‘Forty per cent of our agricultural land is at risk due to climate change. This will lead to dramatic food shortages. We need radical change.’ He hopes they will be able to hold the Stadhouderskade for ‘days or weeks’. ‘This will really have an impact on the city.’
Malou Sprinkhuizen, a member of last year’s Central Student Council of the UvA, also joined the protest. ‘The climate strike was just a tour to The Hague. The blockade is really interrupting life in the city. We’re making an impact. You need to make an impact if you want something to happen.’
The Extinction Rebellion blockade was part of an international day of action. In Berlin, protestors blocked a traffic junction and in Paris, protestors occupied a busy shopping centre. There were also actions in Sydney and London. Extinction Rebellion wants governments to act and do more against climate change and the ecological crises it causes. In each of the countries it has staged a protest, the group has also invited politicians to talk to them.
The police asked demonstrators to leave and arrested a number of them.
‘Childish and illegal’
The blockade elicited lots of reactions in our opinion section. UvA student Fabian van Hal (Law), member of the faculty student council, wrote an opinion article in Folia in which he expressed his support for the need for a cry for help but disagreed with the blockade. ‘The way they put their climate mission into practice has something childish about it’, he wrote. ‘My heart for green business is big, but this sight makes me sad. [...] The intrusive way of protesting is anything but good for the fight for better climate policy. Not unimportant is the fact that this protest is illegal.’
He wrote that he was disappointed there were UvA students involved. ‘Making a decision in a democratic way is our way of doing things in the Netherlands. There is no place for guerrilla-like protests.’
In a response, UvA alumna Meike van den Bongaardt (Psychology) wrote that she did not agree. ‘Yes, this is annoying for people who have to go to work and can’t’, she wrote. ‘But this is a minor inconvenience in terms of what we can expect if we continue like this.’ She believes we can still make changes, but time is running out. ‘Proposing solutions, forcing governments to take action and changing the system before 2025 needs our full attention. [...] This is why Extinction Rebellion does what it does. For you and me and all of us. Embrace the urgency, join them and turn your fear into decisive action instead of writing an opinion piece without having proposed an alternative.’