You want to protest against police violence? Go to the Netherlands

The United States has seen its fair share of protests against police brutality. Not completely without cause, although defund the police didn’t achieve anything other than cause chaos during an election year.

In Europe however police brutality is increasingly disturbing and unique, both because it cannot be argued to be linked to any form of racism and because it is indicative of the current polarisation and weakening of the liberal democratic tradition. Finally, it is worrisome that this trend continues in spite of the extremely intense struggle regarding vaccine mandates and Covid having seemingly all but vanished.

The mostly peaceful Yellow Vest protests that united Left and Right against Macron and the violent responses by French authorities are rather famous at this point, but France is on its fifth republic, a country famous for revolutions, counterrevolutions, violent protests and the extreme police responses.

But now the Netherlands, the country of the “Polder model”, is witnessing its most fanatical farmer protests ever, even though those held in 2019 were already exceptional, and some police officers have added fuel tot he fire by aiming their guns directly at non-violent citizens and one even opening fire on a vehicle with the police falsely claiming it was trying to run them over.

The conduct by the police has only served as fuel to the fire and the media appears to be shifting tone in its coverage. Sympathy for the farmers and their disruptive and semi-legal actions is exceptionally high amongst the population.

This is probably the result of the fact that the Netherlands has an exceptionally strong agrarian sector and that the government is now attacking these sectors pressuring farmers to give up parts of their cattle or even their land, for the sake of environmentalist goals that are extreme by the standards of its neighbouring countries (Germany and especially Denmark).  Also many voters for the government coalition now in charge think the new environmental goals are extreme instead of scientific.

The government admitting it was to build new housing projects on the farmland, instead of preserving nature, and giving preference to migrants over its own citizens when it comes to housing as well as a general housing crisis haven’t helped.

Fishermen and constructions workers being harmed by the same policies, and the government planning to spent tens of billions on its green goals while inflation soars and more and more citizens are struggling to make ends meet probably didn’t make things easier either.

The basic point is that a government led by a nominally centre-right party is pushing mass immigration, radical green politics and other ideals while its own citizens are being driven into poverty and a little over a year after the election the government enjoys the support of less than one third of the population, seeing how it is a continuation of the previous government that resigned over the infamous benefits scandal and only received a majority again due to the rally to the flag effect during Covid.

It’s a trend we can observe in countries such as France as well. An unpopular Centrist wins again and again because many voters just won’t vote for extremist candidates, but they do sympathise with certain extremist frustrations, or at least don’t strongly oppose them, and the extremists protests again and again, fanatically and if need be violently, even when facing police threats. Attempts to vilify them are rather ineffectual and gradually become more so.

Will this further erode democracy? Or will politicians put their own people before ideology? Maybe read John Locke again, the inviolability of private property, that sort of stuff?

I am probably too optimistic even considering that option, but that is what has always driven liberals to some extent, whether it was the Founding Fathers or MacArthur.

Altman Baten

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