Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Squatting in he Netherlands: idealisme or anarchy?

Squatting Cafe, Vrankrijkm Amsterdam (temporarely closed down)

Having started as an idealist movement to fight housing shortages in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities from 1978, squatting quickly became a way of life for many people who were looking for a place to live but could not find somewhere along the regular channels. It is estimated that there were some 20,000 squatters the Dutch capital in the early 1980s, most of them living on unemployment benefit. A subculture developed, with squatters' theatres, artist workshops, restaurants and newspapers, similar to Denmark's Christiania village in the capital Copenhagen.
Police actions to evict squatters increasingly led to pitched battles between riot police in combat gear, and firebomb and brick throwing squatters and in the end, deep rifts in the movement.

After eviction riots in 1982, some squatters considered that greater levels of violence directed at the authorities were justifiable, others wanted to retain the alternative and relatively peaceful lifestyle of the original squatter movement. Hard-line squatter groups began intimidating the less radical members, many of whom decided to break all ties with the movement.
After an eviction in March 2008 police say they discovered booby-traps set by squatters inside the occupied building with the intention of hurting or possibly killing policemen. Two months later, squatters pelted the police with bottles; one policewoman was injured. Police reported finds of arms, munition and pepperspray in the occupied buildings.

Currently there are estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000 squatters in Amsterdam, says the Regioplan agency which is charting developments for the housing minister, Eberhard van der Laan. There are no figures from other cities, where house occupations "are so few that they don't constitute a problem", Regioplan writes. The agency says there are three kinds of them: the "traditional Dutch squatters", the "antiglobalists" who come to the Dutch capital from all over the world, and East-European workers, mostly builders from Poland, who are looking for a cheap place to stay.

Day Opening - February 10

"Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash."
Leonard Cohen (1934 - present)