Over 7000 took the streets in Amsterdam today, demanding that world leaders take swift action on climate change. In spite of the rain, the demonstration attracted a decent crowd, while Paris marches were canceled and rebel protesters teargassed and arrested.
Many buses were planned to take protesters to Paris for this Sunday’s climate march. Since September, all big Dutch leftwing and ecologist organizations were gearing up and gathering their supporters for what hoped to be the biggest climate march in history. Following the cancelation of the Paris marches by the French authorities, many protesters turned back to Amsterdam and hoped to march for those who couldn’t.
Under the slogan « You won’t stop us, climate change has to end! » (my bad translation for the snappy « Wij zij niet te stoppen, klimaatverandering wel »), cheerful protesters filled the narrow streets in long, long lines. Remarkable animals in this circus included human loudspeakers dressed as ghost-busters, a « climate choir », a clique of super heros, human oil barrels, various imaginary animals, and multiple chars and impersonations of the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. As in other countries, the cortege saw the participation of a wide coalition of left wing and ecologist groups, including Greenpeace Netherlands, Avaaz, Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth local affiliate), development organizations Oxfam and Hivos, and political parties including the very popular Partij voor de Dieren (Party for Animals), Groen Links (green party) and the Socialist Party. All gathered around a general promise and need for a societal change, described in their official announcement :
« In the Netherlands nowadays we are experiencing more rain and severe storms than before. Since 1850 our sea level has risen by no less than 20 centimeters, and will rise by four times as much by the end of this century. We cannot go on raising our dikes forever. In spite of these shocking statistics, there is a movement growing with a different future in mind: a future of sustainability, fairness and solidarity. A future where energy is generated in an environmentally friendly manner. Where we stop wasting energy. Where jobs are green and fair. Where rich Western countries take responsibility for the climate problem they caused and vulnerable people no longer are victim. Such a future is possible, if only we want to! »
Unsurprisingly, the center-left-dangerously-leaning-to-the-liberal-side PvdA (Labour) was not to be seen. Nor the police (or 2, in the distance)- my first protest exempt from police. Nearly lost the French habit of anxiously looking around for signs of upcoming teargas.
In spite of the relatively high turnout, my surprise today goes to the dutch press. As of now, on the evening of the demonstration, there is no article to be seen in the mainstream dutch press on the protest. Not in the Volskrant, nor in Het Parool, nor in De Telegraaf, nor on expat news outlets. The Volkskrant covered the Paris climate news for today, only to mention the arrests made on the margins of a protest held in spite of the lack of authorization – when it could have covered instead the tens of thousands who enacted a human chain. The other newsoutlets, as this Sunday’s news, outline the particularly stormy wheather that hit the country today. But no report on the demo. Where are the journalists, when people think the future of our climate and societies is so important to them that they decide to hit the streets on a « particularly stormy » weather to tell their leaders to take action ? Who heard the thousands who chanted along in the rain as their throats turned sore ? I am unsure whether this lack of interest from mainstream media and big political parties towards citizen action on sustainability reflects a growing disconnect or misunderstanding between the elites and people’s concerns, but I would like to challenge these politicians and journalists to pay better attention.