Climate protests in Amsterdam: Activists block private jet runway at Schiphol Airport


Hundreds of climate activists tore up a runway at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Saturday to try to stop private jets from taking off, in the latest demonstration in a series of demonstrations aimed at drawing attention to the climate crisis.

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

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

Robert Kapel, who acknowledged that it was a “large-scale” demonstration, but said that air traffic was not affected because the runway was used only for private jets and no flights were scheduled until Saturday night.

“This morning the activists gathered in the nearby forest, carrying flags and banners with slogans such as ‘SOS for the climate’ and ‘Don’t fly anymore’. At the same time, another group arrived at the airport from the opposite direction with bicycles”, said Greenpeace.

Greenpeace footage shows groups of dozens of protesters sitting on the tarmac in multiple planes on the runway. More images show displays inside the terminal.

More than 100 arrests “and counting” have been made so far, Kapel said. He added that he believed all the arrests would be made by 10:00 p.m. (local time), when he said the first flight was scheduled to take off. Security forces have blocked off the area and made it inaccessible from other parts of the airport, he commented.

The protesters “intend to keep air traffic at 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 reduce flight movements, but a new terminal is being built. 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, they don’t seem to see it putting people at risk is exacerbating the climate crisis. This must stop. We want fewer flights, more trains and a ban on unnecessary short-haul flights and private jets.”

Greenpeace warned the authorities that some kind of action would take place at Schiphol a few weeks in advance, Zloch, who was there, told CNN. The exact location has not been disclosed, he added.

Activists planned to maintain the air traffic blockade

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

It was responding to a previous letter from Greenpeace which stated that its goal was to achieve “emission-free airports by 2030 and climate-neutral clean aviation by 2050”.

“However, it 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 necessary. We need to clarify that soon,” he added.

Elsewhere in Europe, two climate activists were arrested in Madrid, Spain, after sticking a hand on 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 Madrid press office of the Spanish National Police 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.

The Spanish activist group Futuro Vegetal tweeted a video about the protest at the museum. The team is taking responsibility for the incident.

They described themselves as “a collective of civil disobedience and direct action fighting the Climate Crisis through a plant-based food growing system.”

“Last week the UN recognized that it was impossible for us to keep ourselves below the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees (C) of temperature increase from pre-industrial levels,” Futuro Vegetal wrote in its tweet.

Security guards at the Prado immediately alerted the National Police, which has a unit to protect the perimeter of the famous museum, and officers made the arrests within minutes, the police press office said.

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

The protest took place a day before the start of the COP27 climate conference in Egypt.