Amsterdam climate protests: Activists block private jet runway at Schiphol Airport


Hundreds of climate activists broke through a runway at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Saturday in an attempt to prevent private jets from taking off, in the last demo by protesters aiming to draw attention to climate crisis.

Greenpeace Netherlands says “more than 500” green peace and Extinction Rebellion activists were at the airport, one of the largest in Europe, on Saturday afternoon, according to a press release. A spokesman for Schiphol’s security forces could not confirm that figure.

There were around “over 300” activists, the spokesman for the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, the military force guarding the airport, told CNN.

Robert Kapel, acknowledged it was a “large scale” protest but said air traffic was not affected as the runway was exclusively used for private jets and no flights are planned before late Saturday evening.

“This morning, activists gathered in the nearby forest, carrying flags and banners with slogans such as ‘SOS for the climate’ and ‘Fly no more.’ At the same time, another group arrived at the airport from the opposite direction with bicycles,” Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace footage shows groups of dozens of protesters sitting on the tarmac next to several planes on the runway. Other images show demonstrations inside the terminal.

More than 100 arrests “and counts” have been made so far, Kapel said. He added that he believes all arrests will have been made by 10 p.m. local time, when he said the first flight was due to take off. Security forces blocked off the area and made it inaccessible from other parts of the airport, he said.

Protesters “plan to keep air traffic from the private jet terminal grounded for as long as possible,” Dewi Zloch, spokesperson for Greenpeace Netherlands, said in a statement.

She continued: “The airport should reduce its flight movements, but instead it is building a brand new terminal. The wealthy elite are using more private jets than ever, which is the dirtiest form of transportation. It’s typical of the aviation industry, which doesn’t seem to see that it’s putting people at risk by making the climate crisis worse. This must stop. We want fewer flights, more trains and a ban on unnecessary short-haul flights and private jets.

Greenpeace warned authorities that there would be some sort of action at Schiphol weeks in advance, Zloch, who was at the scene, told CNN. They did not reveal the exact location, she added.

Activists planned to keep air traffic blocked

Schiphol Airport CEO Ruud Sondag said activists should “feel welcome, but let’s keep it civil”.

He was responding to a previous letter from Greenpeace and said his goal was to achieve “emission-free airports by 2030 and climate-neutral aviation by 2050”.

“However, this is only possible if we all work together,” Sondag said in a statement released Friday.

“Coming together for our environment, government and society, clear laws, regulations and proper permits are a necessity. We need clarity on this soon,” he added.

Elsewhere in Europe, two climate activists were arrested in Madrid, Spain after each stuck one of their hands on the frames of two Goya paintings at the Prado Museum on Saturday.

There was no apparent damage to the paintings, but the suspects are charged with public disorder and damage, the Spanish National Police press office in Madrid told CNN.

The suspects, two Spaniards, wrote “+1.5C” on the wall between the artworks, which were Goya’s “Las Majas” masterpieces, according to police.

Futuro Vegetal, a Spanish activist group, tweeted a video about the museum protest. The group takes responsibility for the incident.

They described themselves as a “civil disobedience and direct action collective in the fight against the climate crisis through the adoption of a plant-based food cultivation system”.

“Last week, the UN recognized the impossibility of staying below the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5 degrees (C) in temperature increase, compared to pre-industrial levels” , wrote Futuro Vegetal in his tweet.

Prado security guards quickly alerted the National Police, which has a unit dedicated to protecting the famous museum’s perimeter, and officers made the arrests within minutes, the police press office said.

The Paris Agreement, which was adopted by 196 parties at the United Nations COP 21 in December 2015, aimed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The protest comes just a day before the start of the COP27 climate conference in Egypt.

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