Radboud student Julia on occupying ING building: ‘I am very proud’

14 Jul 2022

Chaining yourself with iron pipes, only to be cut free with a grinder and receiving a notation on your criminal record. That is what activists of Extinction Rebellion did in an ING office building (Dutch banking firm, ed.) in Nijmegen last Saturday. ‘I was not eager to do this either’, says Radboud student Julia*.

Last Saturday, activists of Extinction Rebellion occupied ING offices throughout the country, as a protest against investments by the bank in fossil fuels. With a construction of pipes, the protesters chained themselves to pillars and to each other.  The construction enabled them to stay for several hours past closing time.

After the construction was cut loose by a special police team with grinders, the protesters were arrested and taken to the police station. Vox spoke to Julia* – one of the protesters – about her motivation to take part in the protest, and how she looks back on it.

Activists at the ING office. Photography: Myrte Nowee

Why did you decide to join in the first place?

‘It certainly isn’t a “bucket list experience”. And not because I have nothing else to do, as activists of Extinction Rebellion are often accused of. I actually didn’t really look forward to it. But you need people to be obnoxious sometimes. And I thought to myself: I might think I’m not that person, but I could also just become that kind of person.’

By taking part in the protest there was a large chance of being arrested – which is what happened in the end. Didn’t that scare you off?

‘Of course. I might say I didn’t find it scary, but I had never done something like this before. In addition, a notation on my criminal record could be an inconvenience when applying for jobs in the future. That is why I wasn’t eager to participate.’

What won you over?

‘A really good preparation. Via several trainings, briefings, and other meetings we were thoroughly informed about what could happen on Saturday and what the consequences of the protest were. Because of that, we knew exactly what an arrest looks like, how long we were allowed to be detained and what it could mean for your criminal record and a Certificate of conduct (VOG). That is why I actually was quite calm during the protest – in contrast to the hours prior, when I almost threw up because of the nerves.’

‘It was great to be met with a lukewarm beer after all those hours in the cell’

During the protest, the police gave you several chances to leave and prevent an arrest. Why did you not comply?

‘Because we wanted to make a clear statement. We would stay until the ING applied changes to their policy of financing fossil fuels, or until they took us away.’

How do you look back on the protest? Would you do it again?

‘In the end, it wasn’t all too bad. The police generally cooperated well, we got lots of positive reactions from bystanders and the protest itself went smoothly as well. In that sense, I am very proud. Also, because of the nerves, I did not expect to feel so at ease. At the end of the day, I ended up in a cell calmly reading a book.’

‘Still, I would not automatically participate in every protest of Extinction Rebellion. You have to check every time if you fully support the message and the protest and also what role you want to play in it. This was my first time, so I only now see how much is involved. Of course, we make sure to draw attention, but the people outside who explain what we do inside and coordinate everything bring our message across to the press and police.’

‘Besides, being arrested can have quite some mental consequences. So it was great to be met by my fellow protesters with a lukewarm beer after all those hours in the cell.’

* Julia’s full name is known to the editors.

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