Dutch squatting clampdown latest

Gerrard Winstanley office at evnuk.org.uk
Sat Dec 8 11:27:14 GMT 2007

Squatting ban threatened after eviction incidents

by Maurice Laparli?®re and Eric Hesen

Dutch squatters are under fire. After a series of incidents 
surrounding evictions, a majority in the lower house of 
parliament is in favour of a ban
on squatting. "They should just keep their hands off other 
people's property." The squatting scene is in shock.

The words of Christian Democrat MP Jan Ten Hoopen sum up 
the anti-squatting mood. 
"Squatting has become far too blunt an instrument to combat 
speculation. It doesn't suit the times any more. It causes
annoyance and inconvenience, and a lot of damage that can't be 
recouped."He has the wind behind him, following a series of
turbulent evictions in Amsterdam, the bastion of the squatters' 
movement. Apart from being on the receiving end of what has
become a traditional barrage of paint bombs, the Amsterdam 
police claim that unpleasant surprises awaited them once they
entered the buildings. According to Chief of Police Hans 
Sch??nfeld, the police encountered "booby traps and snares, 
in one case actually enabled the squatters to make the ceiling 

Dutch squatting customs
The mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, says that the squatting 
world is hardening. "Nowadays they leave the building before 
the eviction starts, leaving it
professionally barricaded. Extra walls are built and structures 
are set up. This makes it dangerous both for anyone left inside 
and for the police who have to go
in."The Amsterdam police say most of the squatters involved 
were foreign and were unfamiliar with the customs of Dutch 
squatting. In a separate incident, five
Eastern European squatters are said to have terrorised an 
Amsterdam family with two young children. Reportedly they even 
made a hole in the floor of an empty
upper storey to urinate into the family's living room.

The squatters' movement has responded fiercely to the 
allegations, claiming the police have lied to gather support for a 
squatting ban.

Cultural value
There are also squatters in the Netherlands who don't cause any 
nuisance. The residents of a former laboratory in Dordrecht live 
according to the original ideas
behind squatting. The building, known as "Annarres", houses a 
free workshop, stages concerts, and has plans for a cinema and 
simple restaurant. All with the
owner's approval, says Matthijs, one of the residents. "He 
actually thought it was a good thing when we came here two 
years ago. Local youths had broken the
windows and the building had been stripped of anything of value. 
Now we're looking after it and here and there we're doing the 
place up."

It's cold and damp in the former Food Safety Authority lab, but the 
residents say they're happy there. Carpenter Kevin can work on 
his creations as noisily as he
likes - "I'd go crazy if I lived in a flat, and drive the neighbours 
crazy too" - and after a difficult period at home, Matthijs has finally 
found his niche here. With
student grants and part-time jobs, the bills for gas cylinders, 
electricity, water and internet get paid. At present, the squat is 
completely legal according to Dutch
law. But here too the residents would be hit by a squatting ban.

Amsterdam councillor Judith Sargentini points out the cultural 
value of squatting. Alternative films get the chance for a 
screening, vegetarian restaurants are in
demand, and poverty-stricken artists find a place to work. 
Squatter Matthijs adds, "A ban would destroy so much. 
Students and moderate squatters will obey the
ban and leave. They'll become homeless. A small hard core will 
stay put. Then we'll go back in time, I'm afraid. To rioting, really 
serious rioting."

No effect
Elsewhere in Europe, bans on squatting have achieved little, 
says sociologist Hans Pruijt. In Germany, for example, although 
squatting has been illegal for a long
time, it still goes on unabated. In Denmark too, a ban hasn't put 
a stop to squatting. In fact, the country's capital Copenhagen is 
home to one of the world's most
famous squatting communities, Christiania.

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