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Inside the ring, squatting is of no use



The problem

The Amsterdam squatting scene has recovered after the housing protest in Amsterdam, after squatting had faded into the background since the squatting ban. Yet the Amsterdam squatters' movement does not seem to be gaining a real foothold in the city at the moment. Buildings are often only in use for a short time and do not manage to bring about structural changes. Buildings outside Amsterdam are often in use for much longer. What causes this difference? The following topics, in my opinion, are related to this difference: Standstill in the Amsterdam scene At the moment nothing is being built up in the Amsterdam squatting scene. Squats are often evicted shortly after being put into use, often accompanied by arrests and fines. There is also no innovation in tactics and actions, as a result of which the same situations and problems always arise. It is time to take a radically different approach to squatting in Amsterdam, because the squatters' movement there has not progressed in recent times.


After both evictions of the building on the Waldeck Pyrmontlaan, voku's were organized to pay fines and lawyer fees.

Achieving little is not bad in itself. It's okay, even sensible, to build up the movement slowly, take your time and pay attention to the long term. However, that's not what's going on. A lot is happening in Amsterdam. There is a lot of squatting, there are demonstrations almost every weekend. At this pace, you'd think half the city would have to be squatted already. But that is unfortunately not the case. The people who organize demonstrations themselves do not believe that they are going to change anything, and buildings are evicted as quickly as they are squatted.

Repetition of moves

On January 15 and March 5, a building at the Waldeck Pyrmontlaan in Amsterdam was squatted twice and evicted twice within a few days. The same applies to a building on Plantage Middellaan, which was squatted on October 13 and had already been evicted three days later. A squatted building on the Douwe Dekkerstraat was also occupied for only a few weeks. The evictions of these buildings were accompanied by police repression and resulted in trauma, arrests, heavy fines and homelessness, while these sacrifices yielded little benefit.

The unveiling of the squat on the Plantage Middellaan, and within three days the call for a demonstration against the eviction, which happened the next day.

The fact that the consequences of the evacuation of these buildings and the time that these buildings were in use were about the same is because the actions were almost the same. They are often large, prominent buildings that are centrally located in Amsterdam. This can also be seen on the map below. Often these buildings are also dirty and stripped, such as on the Waldeck Pyrmontlaan, or fire-hazardous and unsafe, such as Hotel Mokum, Het Monument or the building on Plantage Middellaan. In addition, due to their central location, although they are in poor condition, these buildings are often worth a lot of money. As a result, the squatters have to deal with wealthy owners, who have a great interest in keeping their property squat free. These owners often also have previous experiences with squatters, or prejudices about us, which makes them more likely to call the police or initiate lawsuits. Because there has already been so much squatting in Amsterdam, lawyers then only have to pull out a single old file and change some details to justify an eviction. As a result, Amsterdam squats are quickly evicted, so that the squatters end up in a vicious circle of squatting a building, conducting a lawsuit, being evicted and squatting again. As a result, the Amsterdam movement is mainly concerned with solving problems within the movement, and there is no time and space to achieve structural change in the city or to fight against the system in a radical way. The evictions are often accompanied by arrests. A noise demonstration is often organized for detainees, which sometimes also involves arrests, for whom a noise demonstration is organized, as happened at ADEV in 2022. This creates a second vicious circle, which also drains energy from the movement, and with which nothing is achieved.

An overview of the location of squats in Amsterdam that were squatted and often evicted in 2021-2022. All these buildings are located in expensive districts, such as the center and south, while completely other areas, such as North and Bijlmer, are overlooked.

Police validation Many people simply do not see these vicious circles as a problem because they measure the legitimacy and validity of their actions by the police response. The most extreme example of this is AFGA, which organized a demonstration on the same day as Hotel Mokum. The police then only came to the Mokum demonstration and because of this AFGA felt insulted, while they had not been confronted with police repression. Furthermore, there are those who brag about how often they have been arrested to show how radical they are.

Squatting as a statement In addition, many people who squat in Amsterdam do not do so because they themselves experience a housing shortage. They have a “normal” house that they can fall back on if a squatting action fails. It has to be this way, because it is physically and mentally untenable to be evicted again after three days of living and to be sentenced to the street or the shelter. This means that the Amsterdam squatting strategy is less focused on enforcing sustainable housing, but more on making a statement and drawing attention to the housing crisis. You may wonder, if you have the means to squat, if it might not be better to use that to alleviate the housing crisis through direct action, rather than just drawing attention from established politicians. In areas outside the Amsterdam ring road, there is much less squatting as a statement and much more often for living. Unfortunately, this is made more difficult by the Amsterdam squatters' movement. This is because Amsterdam squats receive a lot of media attention, because Amsterdam as the capital is much more in the spotlight. In addition, there is an association of squatting with Amsterdam that many (older) people have. Furthermore, more radical actions aimed at confrontation attract more media attention to a subject. And squatters' actions in Amsterdam are more radical. Compare, for example, the unveiling of Hotel Mokum with the unveiling of the K.R.A.B. in Veere. At K.R.A.B there were no banners, torches or balaclavas. There was no need for that, because there was no police response, except for two confused police officers who didn't quite know what to do with squatters. As a result, the squatting campaign did not even make the local newspaper, let alone national news. This action has therefore drawn little attention to the housing crisis, which is also an issue in Zeeland, but the residents have now obtained a home. For residential squatters, police repression, or rather any form of police interference, is something that must be prevented at all costs. This is often different in Amsterdam.


Although more radical actions lead to more media attention, they also reduce the number of supporters of a movement [1]. For outsiders, who mainly base their image of squatters on Amsterdam media images, it seems as if squatters are only out for confrontation. This is detrimental to the squatters' movement in Amsterdam, but also anywhere else in the so-called Netherlands. The regions outside Amsterdam do not benefit from the media attention that Amsterdam properties receive, but the disadvantages of the lack of support are felt. People in Amsterdam also often try to organize events such as parties, bar evenings, general meetings or film evenings more quickly than elsewhere, where the focus is more on making it habitable, especially in a freshly squatted building. This is not surprising, because buildings in Amsterdam are often quickly vacated. An example of this is the building on Plantage Middellaan, where priority was given to organizing a movie night while there was a hole in the roof that was so big that you could see the sky through three floors [2].


Instagram post about the movie night at Plantage Middellaan. In the end, the movie night was canceled because they had already lost the building on the planned date.

Outside Amsterdam this is often different. Krankenhause in Den Bosch, Neverland in Zeist and Vrij Parkeren in Leiden take the time to maintain and renovate their buildings before organizing regular events. Although the purpose of these buildings is completely different from that in Amsterdam, namely living versus demanding attention, these buildings also have to deal with stereotyping based on the media attention for Amsterdam buildings. By continuing to squat (fire) unsafe, dangerous, dirty and extremely leaky buildings, and subsequently organizing of (noisy) events, there is a great burden on the neighbors of squats, while support from the neighbors is often crucial in maintaining a squat. Moreover, it contributes to the perception that squatters are unwise, dirty, antisocial people. Although the choices that lead to this image are mainly made in Amsterdam, this stereotyping also has consequences for squatters in other regions, who do not make these choices.

This is very annoying, because few people have problems with quiet new neighbors who are renovating the empty building in the street. A few will have ideological objections to squatting, but even most liberals realize that we are dealing with a housing crisis. If squatters had the image of people who just want to live and build something beautiful for themselves and their environment, and who are perfectly willing to roll up their sleeves for this, it would actually be possible to discuss the reversal of the squatting ban. With the current situation in Amsterdam, this is impossible due to the large amount of nuisance and dangerous situations that squatters cause for themselves and their environment. It makes no sense to demand the reversal of the squatting ban if we cannot figure out for ourselves when it is and is not wise to squat something.

The Amsterdam squatters' movement also takes little account of the perception of police deployment. It is not the police deployment itself that provokes resistance from the rest of the population. What evokes resistance from the population is when a squatted building that has been inhabited for a longer period of time, where a good relationship is maintained with the neighborhood, is evicted with a heavy hand. That is the moment when resistance and confrontation actually have the desired effect, and through which a widely supported statement is actually made. You cannot achieve the described effect by cracking a building with a lot of noise and then immediately fighting the police. You achieve this effect by squatting more and more sustainable living spaces, until the owners force the municipality to repress. Then you show, also to the neighbors, that the current system is not just, but completely broken.

But in Amsterdam squatting seems to have become an end in itself, where every squat is "good", regardless of whether it is effective. Squatting is therefore no longer a means to achieve your goals, whether this is living or making a statement. This also makes it impossible to change tactics, because squatting has become the goal. This entrenched mentality is maintained by two dynamics; inconsiderate anti-authoritarian behavior and mindlessly following convention.

The Cause

inconsiderate anti-authoritarian behavior. Inconsiderate anti-authoritarian behavior is to regard breaking laws and regulations as an end in itself. It's like stealing food from the supermarket but then throwing it away because you don't like it at all, or breaking into a building for which there is no living-group and then leaving it almost empty immediately after the unveiling, as happened on the Waldeck Pyrmontlaan. It's breaking the law purely for the thrill of getting away with it, for the feeling that you've tricked the system.

It is impossible to achieve structural changes on this behavior and mindset, because there is no long-term idea behind it. They remain small victories for the individual, based not on group power, but on personal obscurity. In addition, squatters often strive, based on anarchist ideas, for a society in which there are no rules or laws that are enforced by force. Then it becomes impossible to think of what you want to do based on what is not allowed, because there will no longer be a system to resist. It then becomes, and is now, important to think about which laws and regulations are useful and which are useless or used to oppress people. It is important to start with what you want to achieve and which laws and regulations stand in the way, but also which laws and regulations you can use to achieve your goal, and not which laws you would like to break. Based on your own assessment and opinion, you can then determine which laws and regulations you do and do not want to violate. By being purely guided by what is not allowed, and seeing every violation of rules as radical action, you are guided by the law just as much as people who do follow the law.

Mindlessly following conventions The inconsiderate anti-authoritarian behavior also includes the mindless following of conventions. Within the Amsterdam squatters' movement there are unwritten agreements about what is and what is not normative and socially accepted behaviour. This is, for example, organizing a noise demonstration when people are arrested because that always happens. Or resist an eviction, even if you really don't want to keep the property. Or organize demonstrations that you already know will not change anything. But because it has already been decided what is and is not desirable to do, or because people consciously or unconsciously follow the people who consciously or unconsciously took charge, people no longer have to think about what they are doing.


Unfortunately, the result of this is that there is little room for new initiatives or tactics. This while new tactics are now desperately needed in Amsterdam. Because Amsterdam has a rich squatting history, the municipality knows what it is like to have an uncontrollable squatting "problem" in the city and will do everything in its power to prevent it from happening again. The municipality of Amsterdam benefits from niping the squatters' movement and other radical movements in the bud. In addition, the municipality and the police are still aware of the tactics and methods from the 80s, so there is no point in trying them again. The police know exactly what happened and what they can do about it.

The Solution

So it's important that we come up with new tactics and methods. An important new tool in our toolbox is social media. Because of this, and because of the improved communication between people in general, it is more important than ever to think carefully about optics and propaganda, and to spend a lot of time on it. To make squatting in Amsterdam effective again, a lot needs to change in the image and stereotyping surrounding squatting. If squatters have the image of people who simply cannot find a home in any other way, but are willing to roll up their sleeves to get things done, the reversal of the squatting ban will become a lot more negotiable. This image of squatting is already shown by many squats outside Amsterdam, but in Amsterdam this is unfortunately often not possible due to the high eviction rate and police repression. The negative image surrounding squatting will therefore not be able to be changed in Amsterdam. However, the mainstream media, which is very decisive in the shaping of worldviews among non-radical people, continues to report on the Amsterdam squatters' movement and thus maintain this negative image as long as there is squatting in Amsterdam. You cannot prevent 'Het Parool' from reporting an eviction in Amsterdam, with all the stereotyping that entails. There is only one solution; stop squatting inside the ring of Amsterdam. It's time for the medium-sized cities to take the spotlight and show how it can be done. It's time to show how squatting can be done NOW, more than 10 years after the squatting ban. It's time to show that squatters are more sensible with their properties than the legal owners. To show that it's ridiculous that just wanting to live is illegal. To show what people can do when you give them a chance. To show that squatters can do what the state and capitalists cannot. Until nobody understands why squatting is illegal. And maybe, just maybe, Amsterdam can try again.







WHAT'S NOT ALLOWED, IS STILL POSSIBLE.


BUT IT HAS TO BE DONE DIFFERENTLY.








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Onbeschoft Distro

www.onbeschoftdistro.org for the online publication and the possibility to react.

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1 Comment


Hard to take a zine seriously that is telling people not to squat. I think that is actually detrimental to the squatting movement, not the actions that have been happening in Amsterdam city center. There should always be space for well-informed public reflection + critique, but that’s not what’s happening here. Focusing so much on image won’t get you as far as you think it will, and besides - being this judgmental and shaming is not a good look!


P.S. There should be more noise demos for arrestees, massive shout out to Amsterdam for doing them.

P.P.S. To the Amsterdam city center squatters: keep going!

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