Dutch police opened fire Tuesday night, shooting toward a protester driving a tractor during ongoing demonstrations over proposed environmental regulations that farmers say would harm their livelihoods.
After the incident, police said they fired “warning shots” to ward off a tractor they believed would drive into them. Farmers have been blockading roads in the Netherlands as the government seeks to implement a reduction of nitrogen emissions, which would impact those with large farms.
“At about 10:40 p.m., tractor drivers attempted to drive into officers and service vehicles. This happened at the entrance Mercurius/A32 in [Heerenveen]. A threatening situation arose. Warning shots were fired and targeted shots were fired,” Dutch police said in a statement.
No one was injured by the gunfire, though a tractor was hit, and authorities arrested three individuals. The shooting will be investigated by an internal investigator with the Dutch government.
The unrest stems from a new plan unveiled at the end of last month to slash 50% of pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and ammonia, by 2030, according to a report from ABC News. As the government acknowledged in a statement, “The honest message … is that not all farmers can continue their business.”
In response, roughly 40,000 farmers gathered to protest the plans, blocking traffic across the country as they drove tractors slowly. “Some have dumped hay bales on roads, and small groups demonstrated at town and city halls, in some cases starting bonfires outside the buildings,” ABC reported, noting that other farmers “set hay bales ablaze.”
Urine and dung produced by livestock are a source of ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions, according to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. NASA satellites have linked agricultural regions to higher atmospheric ammonia concentrations, which lead to “poor air and water quality.”
On Monday, farmers continued their protests by blocking supermarket distribution networks, with fishermen blocking ports as a sign of solidarity, according to a report from German state-owned news outlet Deutsche Welle. Dutch government data shows that the Netherlands’ policies could shutter 30% of livestock farms.
The Netherlands exported €94.5 billion — roughly $98.5 billion — of agricultural goods in 2019, according to a report from the nation’s agriculture ministry. A majority of the goods are shipped to other European countries.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned the protests. “You can demonstrate, but in a civilized way,” he remarked at a NATO summit last week in Madrid, per The Associated Press. “So don’t block highways, don’t set off fireworks outside a minister’s house and spread manure and … scare two children, and endanger families.”
Ben Zeisloft contributed to this report.