Actie Milieudefensie jongeren3 – Shell schelp – EUR campus – 25.5.2023_Esther Dijkstra
Image credit: Esther Dijkstra

In the square in front of the Food Plaza, the six members of Friends of the Earth Netherlands wanted to remind the multinational – and especially students – of the court’s ruling that Shell must emit 45 percent less carbon dioxide by 2030 at the latest. In order to do so, among other things they had brought with them a replicated pumpjack (also known as a nodding donkey), a pump that is used to extract crude petroleum from the earth. They also had a sandbox in the shape of a Shell symbol, with a sign paraphrasing the words of former Shell CEO Ben van Beurden: ‘I will continue to pump up whatever I can’.

Resolute but polite

Even before the pumpjack had been driven onto the campus, the protesters had already been asked to leave by security guards. The protesters were surprised by this, as they claimed to have reported to the municipality that they wanted to carry out their campaign at the university’s address. There had been no objection to this.

One of the protesters, Tim van Nes, says that according to the security guards, they should also have asked the university for permission at least two weeks in advance. In addition, they were not allowed to hand out the flyers they had brought with them because of the flyer ban on the campus. According to Van Nes, the security guards were ‘resolute but polite’.

Private property

Eventually, like last week’s vigil for a Palestinian journalist, the demonstration was allowed to go ahead on the edge of the campus, just outside the blue line. “Of course it meant we could speak to fewer people than we wanted, but we are still quite satisfied with the campaign”, says Van Nes.

Van Nes says that he notified the municipality of the demonstration by telephone. A spokesperson for the municipality says that she cannot find any evidence of this. She emphasises that although no permission is required to demonstrate, the municipality asks people to notify them of demonstrations in good time so that an assessment of the practical consequences and possible safety measures can be made. Things are different on campus. The university considers the campus to be private property and therefore requires permission for demonstrations, which can be requested via a special email address.

The youth branch of Friends of the Earth Netherlands will be visiting more universities in the period ahead with their nodding donkey. Next month, they will be in Utrecht.


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