By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
AMSTERDAM (Worthy News) – Dutch police released a teenager amid a public outcry after officers shot his tractor in the worst standoff with farmers in years, officials said Thursday.
The tractor of the 16-year-old boy was shot during a restless night of ongoing farm protests against government nitrogen plans that could farmers fear will hurt their livelihoods.
His tractor came under fire during a police blockade on the A32 motorway near the northern Dutch town Heerenveen.
Activists from the Farmers Defence Force group drove in a convoy of tractors to the nearby Leeuwarden police station to demand the release of the boy, identified only Jouke.
He and two men, aged 34 and 46, were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after police claimed they “tried to drive at officers and police vehicles.” But the suspects were freed overnight after the charges were withdrawn, law enforcement authorities said.
Police also detained 19 protesters who refused to leave a distribution center near the port city of Rotterdam, which farmers have blockaded for the past three days. Nearly half of those detained were minors, sources said Thursday.
In Amsterdam, the capital, farmers on tractors also emerged in Dam Square as well as outside Gelderland’s provincial assembly building in the city of Arnhem and at the public broadcasters Mediapark in the town of Hilversum.
Dutch authorities and supermarket chains have rushed to limit interruptions in food supplies as farmers began blockades near airports and distribution centers this week.
The director of the Dutch supermarket sector’s trade group warned this week that the “Consequences of blockades are already noticeable today.”
Marc Jansen spoke on Dutch NOS Radio 1 as reports emerged of chains lacking fresh food produce. “Fresh products, bread, vegetables, fruit, people will have to miss out on that today because it would normally be delivered tonight, and that did not happen,” Jansen warned.
Elsewhere police rushed this week to the sea lock at IJmuiden in North Holland province, where fishers blocked what is the world’s second-largest lock. Facing government-imposed limitations on their work as well, fishermen said they support the farmers’ protests.
Farmers have pledged to continue their protests against the government’s plans to reduce nitrogen compound emissions, which are the strictest in the European Union.
Nature minister Christianne van der Wal has given provinces a year to come up with detailed plans aiming at halving “emissions of ammonia and nitrogen oxide by 2030.”
She said some farmers would inevitably have to give up their business, either voluntarily or through compulsory purchase.
The minister claims the measure is needed to comply with a ruling by the Council of State that the Netherlands was breaching European nature conservation laws.
Several opposition parties have questioned that approach saying the Netherlands’ famed agriculture sector has been singled out while more polluting industries continue undisturbed.
Police have placed barriers and concrete blocks on four access roads to Van der Wal’s private home near Hardewijk, which has been the scene of angry protests by farmers in recent weeks.
Security cameras have also been put up around the neighboring village, and police say there are stopping and questioning people walking in the area.
The protests are among the most serious, with some lawmakers warning Prime Minister Mark Rutte that his government’s policies could lead to “civil war.”
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