APR 19 . 2005
The Silent Procession

NL – From our recent pursuits of freespaces in Holland, the densest populated region on the planet, we’ve gotten the clear feeling that freespaces are really not desired element. Especially not in the urban centers like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag and Utrecht. There are increasingly more reports of municipal governments and owners taking actions to evict.

Looking to Holland from outside, there is often the popular misconception that life must be so much better for freespaces there due (primarily) to the tolerance and (semi-)legality of squatting. This perception is reinforced by the clichés of the liberal Dutch society (see marijuana, red-light districts) which the tourists boards ruthlessly employ to market the (primarily Amsterdam) urban experience with. Anyone who has been in Holland longer than a few days, especially since the shift to the right and collapse of 50 years of red government in the 2002 elections, knows it just ain’t so. And perhaps it never was. But that’s a longer story and we don’t want to start a thesis on Dutch neoliberalism.

Squatting (dutch: kraken), the origin of many (but not all) freespaces in Holland, is currently under fire by the government to be banned all together. The squatting of properties which are one year or longer empty or which can be proven to be not in official use is technically permitted but not a written law. For owners and speculants, this is naturally not a great thing. On the agenda of the national and municipal governments is to attract more middle and higher income residents into the city, sometimes making admendmants even to forbid lower incomes residency. This has resulted in the privatisation of social housing and housing corporations demolishing entire zones of cities, especially those with social housing, to redevelop their property for the rich. Squatting naturally disturbs this vision of the city of the future.

> Members of the Kraakspreekuur Rotterdam at Freibesetzt: 28 June - 02 July

There are a number of activist organisations protesting against this trend such as SASH (stop afbraak social huisvesting) in Amsterdam who organized various demos. Also the action group WOONSTRIJD! have organized actions and demonstrations across the country in the first weeks of April. The connecting symbol has been a tent: the last option where a vast number people are being offered as an alternative place to live.

see Indymedia AMSTERDAM ROTTERDAM LEIDEN Woonstrijd Reports

Within this greater trend are a number of disturbing stories from Dutch freespaces. The beginning of April has been a hot month in central Utrecht. Two important squats, the Vismarkt and Dump, have been lost to (apparent) redevelopment plans of the owners and the Gemeente. Outside the Dump on the night of April 2, there was a protest action with burning barricades and paint bombs against a heavy police presence. April 7, a 60-person funerary procession went through the center of the city and passed along the 2 neuralgic points destined for eviction. The following evening: the April 8 eviction of the Vismarkt, a squat of 12 years home to 8 people, was authorized by the mayor because the inhabitants didn’t accept the fire safety regulations imposed in a recent inspection and thereby were considered to be “disturbing the public order”. April 14: The Dump, the 2 year home to a weggeevwinkel/kostnixladen nearby the Utrecht Centraal Station, was also cleaned out by the politie special forces.

Vrije Ruimte News from Amsterdam. OPEN WEEK THREATENED SPACES 19-24 April.
“Amsterdam is threatened to soon have less freespaces open to the public. Since all of the spaces taking part in this week are squats threathened with eviction, we want to invite all, whether you are familiar with these spaces or not, to come have a look at and enjoy what will disappear if these spaces are evicted.”
Participants: Pakhuis Afrika, Nieuwezijds, Schijnheilig, Nieuwe Nieuwendijk, CIA Infocafé

Members of the Vrije Ruimte @ Freibesetzt: 07 July - 10 July

Poortgebouw, Rotterdam: Silent Processions to City Hall
On April 5th, members of the Vereniging Poortgebouw and supporters marched to City Hall to a “Physical Infrastructure” commission meeting to present their 2000 petition signatures against the new owner’s redevelopment plans into luxus office spaces. The inhabitants also took the opportunity to ask the City for their official position on the 2001 sale of the monumental building which happened behind the backs of the 20-year renters to a private developer. With the support of most of the commission members, the Poortgebouw was invited to return the next week where the responsible councillor, Marco Pastors (Liveable Rotterdam) would comment. April 12, councillor Pastors made it clear that he is in favor of a new function for the Poortgebouw to replace the 25 year (sub)cultural bulwark and home to the 30 person living group. 30 people on the street? His response was to the tune of “shit happens”. Rotterdam urban redevelopment plans which pass over his table result in 1500 people on the street in the year. Pastors, a profiled supporter of the private market seizing control of housing, feels that the City has nothing to do with the fight over the Poortgebouw as the new owner is a private developer. However, he proposed to write a letter to the former owner to see what is possible regarding alternative housing for the inhabitants. May 13, the judge will making a ruling on the next steps of the legal case between the Vereniging Poortgebouw and the developers, de Groene Groep.

Members of the Vereniging Poortgebouw @ Freibesetzt: 01 June - 23 July




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