Hundreds of climate activists broke up a runway at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on Saturday to try to stop private jets from taking off, in the latest demonstration by protesters to draw attention to the climate crisis.
Greenpeace Netherlands said late Saturday that “more than 500” Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion activists were at the airport, one of Europe’s largest, in a press release. A spokesman for Schiphol’s security forces could not confirm this figure.
There were “more than 300” activists, a spokesman for The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, the military force that guards the airport, told CNN.
Robert Kapel, acknowledged it was a “large-scale” demonstration, but said air traffic was not affected as the runway was used exclusively for private jets and there were no scheduled flights until Saturday night.
“This morning, activists gathered in the nearby forest, carrying flags and banners with slogans such as ‘SOS for the climate’ and ‘No more.’ At the same time, another group arrived at the airport from the management opposed by bicycles,” said Greenpeace.
Greenpeace footage shows groups of dozens of protesters sitting on the tarmac in front of several planes on the runway. More images show demos inside the terminal.
More than 100 arrests have been made “and counting” so far, Kapel said. He added that he believes all arrests will have been made by 10pm (local time), which is when he said the first flight is scheduled to take off. The security forces have blocked off the area and made it inaccessible from other parts of the airport, he said.
The protesters “plan to keep air traffic from the private jet terminal on the ground for as long as possible,” Greenpeace Netherlands spokeswoman Dewi Zloch said in a statement.
He continued: “The airport should be reducing its flight movements, but instead it is building a whole new terminal. The wealthy elite are using more private jets than ever before, which is the most polluting way to fly. This is typical of the aviation industry, which doesn’t seem to see that it is putting people at risk by exacerbating the climate crisis. This has to stop. We want fewer flights, more trains and a ban on short-haul flights and unnecessary 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 disclose the exact location, he added.
Schiphol Airport CEO Ruud Sondag said activists should “feel welcome, but let’s keep things civil”.
It responded to an earlier letter from Greenpeace and stated that its aim 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 needed. We need clarity on this soon,” he added.
Elsewhere in Europe, two climate activists were arrested in Madrid, Spain, after they taped one of their hands to the frames of two Goya paintings at the Prado Museum on Saturday.
There was no apparent damage to the paintings, but the suspects are being charged with public disorder and damage, the press office of Spain’s National Police in Madrid told CNN.
The suspects, two Spanish women, wrote “+1.5C” on the wall between the artworks, which were Goya’s masterpiece “Las Majas,” 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 by adopting a plant-based food growing system”.
“Last week the UN recognized the impossibility of keeping us below the limit of the increase, of the Paris Agreement, of 1.5 degrees (C) of temperature, with respect to pre-industrial levels”, he write Futuro Vegetal in his tweet.
Security guards at the Prado quickly alerted the National Police, which has a unit dedicated to protecting the perimeter of the famous museum, 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 COP27 climate conference begins in Egypt.