No riots in this town

Whatever it was they were afraid of – it did not happen. No anarchist army trying to storm the city, no one trying to climb those fences or crash into those barricades. Just a lot of curious Dutch people with their bikes or on foot, standing around and hoping for a glimpse of someone important arriving for the Nuclear Security Summit.

Apart from that, empty streets. No traffic chaos. Apparently they really scared everyone off, the warnings have worked. On Monday morning the city stayed in Sunday mode. While biking to school with the boys I had to suppress the urge to check if it was really Monday.

Exceptionally nice traffic wardens and police men (in black combat uniform!) showed us where we were allowed to cycle and were not. They smiled, wished us a good day and were open for chats. The only thing disturbing the peace was the constant hum of the helicopters circling the area, until late at night.

On Tuesday, some cars ventured into the streets again, but still too few to cause serious problems. While cycling back from school in the afternoon we did encounter an annoying situation though: The police suddenly started to block one of the (officially open) side roads – someone important apparently needed to drive there. So we had to turn and ride back quite a bit and make a detour. Older boy sighed but did not complain. Younger boy was munching a cookie on his seat on my bike. (He complained later that he had gotten cold though… he did not like those policemen so much.)

Tuesday evening the helicopters stopped and it seemed that this was the end of the NSS for us.

Except for the fact that the fences and barricades were still there. It had taken some time to built them up, so naturally it will take some time to take them down again. Which goes without saying – and therefore no one had really mentioned it (or is it possible that they just thought it would sound too bad… having to live with blocked roads for a week instead of 2-4 days?)

So on Wednesday morning everyone took out their cars again, and we all found ourselves in a huge traffic jam after all. Hurray.

P.S. If I remember it correctly the whole thing cost more than 20 million Euro… I don’t know how much of that sum went into the fences and barricades…. but I think they could have saved some money there…

Blogging in view of a fence

At the moment we have a big metal fence near our house. Plus black roundish barricades. Plus a lot of policemen patrolling in the streets. And helicopters circling the area.

No, I am not living in some sort of dangerous place, but in the peaceful (some say boring) Netherlands. From tomorrow morning on The Hague will be hosting the Nuclear Security Summit – a lot of very important statesmen discussing a lot of very important things (yes, Obama will be there too). It is the most important international political event in modern Netherlands so far, and the Dutch are taking their responsibility very seriously. The whole area has been divided into colour-coded zones, depending on the proximity to the conference hotel. There are zones where you cannot park your car, zones where you are not allowed to drive but ride your bike, zones where you have to walk (or push your bike). And the inner zone (the red one!) is surrounded by big metal fences the Dutch have borrowed from UK (where they allegedly have been used at the Olympic Games in London… though not as part of any competition, I think). A lot of roads have been closed and everyone is warned not to come into the city by car during the next two days, to avoid a complete traffic chaos. The roads from the airport to The Hague are also partly closed. You can imagine what this will do to Monday morning rush hour, if enough people insist on still travelling by car. Everyone is encouraged to use public transport – great idea, except for the fact that the tram we would use in our area is not riding its usual route because of the NSS. So it will be biking to school tomorrow. Luckily it is not that far.

But when I look at all these fences and barricades and policemen I start asking myself: what are they expecting? A violent mob trying to storm the conference building? I cannot really imagine the Dutch doing that. Granted, they are not really fond of authority, but what they would normally do is probably trying to engage everyone in a loooong discussion about it. Now, earnestly, I cannot imagine a big anarchist crowd flooding the city.

But if they are so paranoid about it, why do they have to do the whole event in a city? Why not on the countryside, maybe one of the little Dutch islands up North? Just bring everyone there, shut down the ferry service and enjoy. Maybe let a few ships patrol the North Sea, and if you have to, bring those helicopters over too. – But no, it has to be here, and all the Dutch politicians are so vey proud about the role their country is playing. The eyes of the world are on The Hague. Oh well.

Am I being too cynical? Should I be proud too? – Anyway, I just hope anything good will come out of those two days, not only quarrelling and digging in of metaphorical heels. And with a bit of luck, the anarchists will stay home too or just enjoy the nice spring weather at the beach.

I will let you know.

Good night.