Extinction Rebellion (XR) intends to block the A12 until government fossil subsidies are abolished. Medical student Christian Stricker, chemistry PhD student Roza Weber, and student of global responsibility and leadership Jonas Brenninkmeijer are also participating in the blockade.
Why are you taking part in this demonstration?
Christian: ‘I am studying medicine, and the climate crisis is also a health crisis. Air pollution leads to more cases of asthma, and summer heatwaves, for example, result in heat stress. So, this demonstration has multiple goals.
People often say: if you want change, you should vote. But when government promises are not kept, you have to find another way to make your voice heard, like a protest.’
Roza: ‘I believe that civil disobedience, such as a blockade like this, can make a difference in society. In Greta Thunberg’s book, The Climate Book, it is mentioned that change can occur when 3.5 percent of people disagree with something. And I think going to the A12 is the most impactful way to make your point.’
Jonas: ‘I was discussing climate and the climate crisis with my younger brother and parents. At that point, I felt I had to do something, to protest. That’s how I ended up with Extinction Rebellion pretty quickly.’
How was the blockade?
Roza: ‘Last Saturday, I initially stood in the support demonstration next to the road. But it was so easy to step off the sidewalk and onto the road itself. It didn’t even feel like a big step because it’s a very peaceful protest. Many people are happy to be able to do something. The atmosphere is really great, but the message is serious.’
Jonas: ‘I was there on the first day of the demonstration, on Saturday, and I went with my mother. The atmosphere was incredibly good, and we also met other people we knew. There was occasional singing and music. Although I found it quite intense to be there, some people were really energetic, but I was quite tired by the end of the day.’
Christian: ‘I haven’t been there yet, but I hope to go next weekend. Some of my friends went last Saturday, and I followed their updates on Instagram.
What I do notice is that the blockade is getting more and more media attention. That’s a sign that change is on the horizon. And when I compare how people reacted a few years ago to how they react now, it makes me optimistic. More people are standing behind the goal of the blockade.’
Are you willing to get arrested by standing on the highway?
Christian: ‘For the highway demonstration, it’s advised to undergo training. I haven’t done that, so I’ll be at the support demonstration along the road. Moreover, getting arrested can lead to having a criminal record. I don’t know what the consequences of that are, so I want to research it thoroughly first.’
Roza: ‘Last Saturday, I was on the road at times, but during the arrests, I returned to the support area. Those who are arrested on the highway often don’t resist, but they can sometimes be treated more aggressively. You sometimes see blood on their faces. That’s not really for me.’
Jonas: ‘It was my first time being there, so I chose to stay in the support area. I also didn’t receive any action training on how to respond to the police. So it seemed like a sensible choice.
We could have gone to the legal demonstration site elsewhere, but we were carried along with the crowd heading towards the highway. We left around 5 p.m., but there were still quite a few people there.’
Do you think XR will continue to demonstrate until fossil subsidies are abolished?
Christian: ‘I think they will. Even if it’s quieter on weekdays, there are still plenty of people passionate about the climate.’
Roza: ‘The people who are very involved in the demonstration will probably keep going. But it also depends on how the government responds to the demonstration.’
Jonas: ‘It’s hard to say. Many people are willing to protest, but you also have a life outside of this demonstration. In the past, some mass demonstrations have failed.’
Will you demonstrate again?
Christian: ‘If I’ve researched it thoroughly and feel prepared, I want to stand on the highway as well. But not this coming weekend; I’ll be in the support area. And in the autumn, I’ll participate in the climate march in Amsterdam.’
Roza: ‘Whenever I can and support the cause, I will definitely go. But for now, I don’t have any concrete plans.’
Jonas: ‘I have school during the week, so I don’t want to go then. Possibly on weekends. My mother also wants to go again, so we’ll see if that works out.’