Saturday, April 18, 2009

moddern art = i could do that + yeah, but you didn't

I mentioned that I was taking part in some squatting actions, one of them went like this:

Approximately 70 people gathered in a squat one morning to discuss the following days events, which focused around the goal of opening a new squat.

One of the topics discussed was how the laws about squatting work here, this is how I understood the discussion: In Amsterdam all squat openings are done in the middle of the day because they are legal. So long as a building has been unoccupied for a year, people have the right to then inhabit the building. However, in Amsterdam, you can be evicted from the property if the building has been occupied more recently than a years time, or the new residents (squatters) are not "properly inhabiting" the building (according to Dutch law, a building is properly inhabited when each resident has a chair, a mattress, and a table in their respected rooms).

So the door is opened. With help from others, the ten new occupants each carry a chair, a table, and a mattress to their respected rooms (this is all organized before the opening so it takes less than two minutes to carry everything in).

On a really good day: No cops, no problems.

On a good day: Concerned neighbors call cops, cops come and simply find a properly inhabited building (hence the reason for the hasty entrance, all tables, chairs, mattresses, and residents need to be in place before the police inspect the property), police explain to neighbors that "actually this is legal in Amsterdam and that there is no need for alarm." Police leave, no problems.

On a not so good day: Something goes wrong, that was this day.

A good action is well planned, researched, and organized. This was a good action. The building was checked out and was indeed empty for a year, people were informed about what could go wrong, it was made clear what to do if you chose to be arrested, and if you chose not to, everyone wrote down the lawyer's name and phone number on their arm, we had media reps in place to talk to press that might come, we had police liaisons, we had a medic, food, and letters in several languages explaining to neighbors that we meant no harm and what we were doing.

The first part all went to plan, but when the police came they did not inspect the residence as usual. They claimed (incorrectly) that the residence had been occupied in less than a years time. They were determined to get us out.

A football game was taking place in Amsterdam the next day. Riot police had been brought in to the city to help control the event. They ended up getting some early action when the local police called them in to evict us.

Most of the day was spent sitting, waiting, and prepping. The doors were barricaded, food was brought. If the police were able to break in, all those inside would knowingly be arrested (which they were, I believe 20 in total). Naturally I chose to remain outside the building, not having any status in the Netherlands.

Once the riot police came, we realized we were going to lose the squat. They outnumbered us, had armor, shields, giant beating sticks, and horses. Quite a few of our members put up resistance, staying together in a tight mass in front of the door. This prevented any single person from being arrested (which is a much bigger hassle than a large group being hauled into jail. Police do not like lots of paperwork, but one or two people taking a fall is no big deal to them) and also kept police from immediately breaking through the barricade. This group put up one hell of a fight and gave us good publicity with the media, but were ultimately displaced (beaten and pushed) by lots and lots of riot cops. Those who could not afford to get arrested had opportunities to show support in other ways, and to remain at a distance (which is what I did).

Turns out, the squat had been legal all along, the building had been empty for a year, and the squatters were illegally evicted. The next day the mayor held a press-conference. He even almost apologized for illegally evicting the squat and for the extreme measures that were taken by the police force. While in jail, the arrested were able to enjoy a hot shower, free food, and tetris. All of those who were arrested were let out without charge; upon leaving one person even had his weed returned to him by an officer.

...something tells me it will not be long before the property is squatted again.

So, onto new topics...

Under The Bridge is now in the process of transitioning from an occupying stage (recruiting people to live in a newly squatted building after it is opened) to a social center (more operational, focused more on events and less on housing). This means that it is time for me to move on from Amsterdam, luckily I have also reached a stopping point for the Copenhagen website.

Amsterdam has been a blast. It is a great city, but almost a little too much like Boone. It is time to travel again. I am really looking forward to being on my bike, especially in the nice weather. I should be in Brussels by tomorrow morning, as I have found a ride there which is leaving later today.

I also have a bit of disappointing news. I know I promised photos to everyone, but after the last big party we had at the place several cameras turned up missing. Despite keeping mine quite well hidden, and searching all over for it, it appears that it was among those taken.


  1. Ev, its really neat to hear all about these squats and such...its something that I'm interested in and don't know too much about. Glad to hear that Copenhagen and Amsterdam were awesome. Things are good here in Boone, although spring is fleeting and snow is still threatening. Love.