Amsterdam marchers demand climate action as Dutch election nears

By Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Amsterdam on Sunday demanding immediate action against climate change, 10 days before the country holds a general election.

Local police said around 70,000 people joined the march, including climate activist Greta Thunberg and former EU climate chief Frans Timmermans, who will lead the combined Labour and Green parties at the upcoming election.

Organisers said the turnout was the largest ever at a climate protest in the Netherlands.

"I'm here because I don't want the planet to become hotter than it already is, and I want the North Pole to remain as cool as it is, and we want to raise awareness for that," protester Anouk Mul told Reuters.

Protesters, some wearing scuba diving gear as a reference to rising sea levels and many carrying signs reading "Cut the crap, scale emissions back!" and "Don't like our Climate March? Try living on Mars", marched 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles) through Amsterdam singing, chanting and blowing whistles.

The Netherlands heads to the polls on Nov. 22, after an election campaign that has so far been dominated by discussions on migration and the rising cost of living. Climate issues in general rank lower on most people's priority lists, recent opinion polls have shown.

Timmermans' coalition has made tackling climate change one of its main issues and is currently polling in third place, behind two conservative parties who put more emphasis on the need to limit migration.

Thunberg's speech in Amsterdam's Museum Square was briefly interrupted by a protester who grabbed the microphone from her accusing her of turning the march into a political event.

Thunberg had handed the microphone to a Palestinian peace activist whose speech earlier was cut short by organisers when she used the contested phrase "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."

After Thunberg got the microphone back, she chanted "No climate justice on occupied land" repeatedly, videos posted on social media showed.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling, writing by Bart Meijer; Editing by Hugh Lawson)