By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
AMSTERDAM (Worthy News) – A medical flight was unable to land in the Dutch capital Saturday as hundreds of environmental activists stormed an area holding private jets at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, officials said.
“Thanks to this unsanctioned rebellious grounding, our members have had to divert a medical flight bound for Amsterdam with a patient onboard,” said the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) in a statement monitored by Worthy News.
Environmental group Greenpeace Netherlands denied the accusations saying: “We only block the private jets on the platform, arriving flights will not be hindered.” Greenpeace added that the “Oostbaan (East Runway) is still in use, according to the authorities. We regret that this flight has been diverted. That was not necessary because of our action.”
However, with people nearby, the pilot apparently decided it wasn’t safe to land at the Netherlands’ main international airport.
Air traffic controller Jan van Duin, working at nearby Rotterdam Airport, said he prepared for deviated traffic from Schiphol due to the protest. “When it comes to patient transport, you go for an optimal situation,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s okay to protest. But don’t disturb anything whose consequences you can’t foresee. Then you cross the line.”
With the medical flight diverted and tensions rising around the runway, Dutch military police detained hundreds of climate activists. Many had clambered over fences and gates at Schiphol airport and occupied an apron for private jets, which they said should be banned.
The protesters ran onto the tarmac early Saturday, sitting in front of private planes parked on the apron, including a Royal Canadian Air Force C-130 transporter.
It was unclear if any jets were set to depart, but protesters claimed they saw at least one pilot leave a plane and walk back to a nearby hangar.
Backed by environmental groups Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion, activists pushed dozens of bicycles onto the apron. Shouting slogans like “Down with flying” and “Schiphol environmental polluter,” they cycled around the apron to the cheers of onlookers on the other side of the fence.
“This action today is about airport Schiphol needing to cut its emissions which means we need to fly less,” Greenpeace spokeswoman Faiza Oulahsen said. “We are starting with those flights we absolutely don’t need, like private jets and short flights.”
About three hours later, Dutch military police started detaining more than 100 activists — some of whom were dragged to waiting buses after passively resisting arrest. Police were also seen tackling several protesters off their bicycles as they tried to escape their pursuers.
Police said the activists were being questioned at several offices around the airport and could face charges related to being in a place they shouldn’t be.
Greenpeace later complained that security forces were “far too heavy-handed against the activists on bicycles” and that at least one person received a head injury. There was no immediate comment from the military police in charge of security in Schiphol.
The environmental group said the protest was the latest action to express concern that Schiphol is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the Netherlands, emitting 12 billion kilograms annually.
Responding to the protest, Schiphol said it aims to become an emissions-free airport by 2030 and supports targets for the aviation industry to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
It wasn’t clear whether the airport would reduce the number of private jets using Schiphol.
Dutch Transportation Minister Mark Harbers told Parliament last month he couldn’t control growing private jet traffic but added that the government is considering whether to include the issue in its climate policy. The Netherlands and Amsterdam are the main shareholders of the airport, owning nearly 90 percent of Royal Schiphol Group N.V., according to the firm’s business statement.
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