Standing at the garbage lot of Droevendaal, forcing wine bottles down the throat of the underground glass containers, three strange humanoids stagger past, speaking amongst themselves. Two are wearing colourful rags covered in sewn-on Extinction Rebellion logos, the other has rugged wings of long white feathers on his back.
“What’s happening?” I say, casually striking up a conversation with the fallen angel. “We were protesting at the construction site of Upfield,” he says, walking over to my shopping cart full of broken glass, “they already took the protestors from the roof, now only the ones in the crane are left” he continues casually, absent-mindedly taking a green bottle and pushing it down the glass duct labelled ‘Brown’. Curious, I start pushing the bottles into oblivion at double speed, thank him for his help, and rush my empty shopping cart back home.
A girl is walking barefoot to and fro with a smudgy lab coat covered in slogans and stickers, shouting encouragements at the crane in the distance
I race to campus on my bike. From afar, I can see a giant banner with the text ‘Deconstruction’ followed by a drawing of the ‘Monopoly Guy’ with the top hat flapping from the 50-meter tall crane. On the ground, the police have formed a semi-circle of cars and bored officers, and idle construction workers sit on the grass watching the group of enthusiastic protesters sitting and dancing around singing and chanting Extinction Rebellion things. A girl is walking barefoot to and fro with a smudgy lab coat covered in slogans and stickers, shouting encouragements at the crane in the distance.
“They’ve been there since 5am,” a friend and now fellow protester briefs me, “they attached themselves to the crane with lock-on pipes, the police arrested or dispersed those on the ground and the roof.” I stare up at the crane, watching miniature policemen scaling the six ladders that lead to the top platform. After a long while, ropes are lowered from the crane, and two feet in mountain shoes appear over the edge, followed by the rest of the protester. “You are not alone! You are not alone!” we chant as the girl, probably terrified, with her hands in cuffs behind her back, is lowered all the way down to the ground. The process is repeated by the special officers with their balaclavas and pistols, ever so slowly, for the other three protestors as we powerlessly scream in their support.
I wonder what the handful of students having lunch and watching the spectacle are thinking. Probably laughing at the silly protesters
I feel like a fraud, there is probably not a single day on which I don’t torment my housemates with anti-capitalist propaganda and critiquing the spineless complacency of this university vis-a-vis the private sector. But would I have gotten myself arrested? No, at least not yet. I wonder what the handful of students having lunch and watching the spectacle are thinking. Probably laughing at the silly protesters while they themselves are advancing their careers, increasing their own profitability, marketing themselves so that Unilever might one day hire them. Then they can join the countless ranks of graduates twisting numbers to make it look like we can squeeze a bit more life out of this planet. But did these protesters go too far? As long as there is a single multinational left on campus, I believe they still haven’t gone far enough.
Luuk Slegers is masterstudent Internationale Ontwikkeling, richting Sociologie, en woont in Wageningen op Droevendaal met zijn vijf huisgenoten. Hij gaat graag ’s morgens een stuk wandelen in het Bennekomse bos.