Wed, 27 Sep 2023

The incident comes amid unrest over green reforms that are set to have major impacts on the agricultural sector

Police in the Netherlands fired their service weapons at farmers protesting new environmental reforms, with video footage showing officers shooting at a tractor as it attempted to evade law enforcement.

The incident unfolded late on Tuesday near a highway entrance ramp in the northern town of Heerenveen, where local police claimed "tractor drivers attempted to drive into officers and service vehicles" following a stop.

"A threatening situation arose. Warning shots were fired and targeted shots were fired," they said, adding that the tractor was hit and that three suspects were later stopped and arrested. Nobody was injured in the encounter.

However, footage of the shooting has since emerged on social media, and does not appear to show any attempted ramming. Instead, the clip depicts two vehicles driving off the scene, neither coming close to hitting any pedestrian, with officers opening fire on the second as it sped away.

Another video apparently filmed around the same time shows an officer with a pistol in hand as he issues commands to a tractor driver parked near the highway ramp, all the while aiming the weapon at the vehicle.

Gideon van Meijeren, an MP with the conservative Forum for Democracy party, later commented on the footage in response to a police statement, saying it did not show anyone in "imminent danger" while adding the tags "police violence" and "farmer's revolt." He urged authorities to account for the apparent discrepancy "as soon as possible," also noting that he had requested an emergency debate in parliament.

Because an officer fired their service weapon while on duty, the country's National Criminal Investigation Department will launch a probe into the incident to determine exactly what happened, local police added.

The run-in came during a wave of unrest among Dutch farmers, who have vocally opposed a government initiative to slash pollution emissions, including nitrogen oxide and ammonia, by 50% over the next eight years.

Because fertilizers contain a large amount of nitrogen oxide, and livestock produce ammonia in their urine and feces, the reforms are likely to hit the agricultural industry, forcing farmers to reduce the number of livestock or cease operations altogether. Many fear the reforms will simply put them out of business, driving intense demonstrations in recent weeks, including farmer-led blockades at major transportation hubs.

Late last month, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that farmers have the right to protest, but warned that the government would not allow them to "create dangerous situations" or "intimidate officials," language echoed by police in Heerenveen after Tuesday's shooting.


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