As everyone knew for a long time already the squatting ban finally became a legal entity on the 1st of October. How the law isto be implemented and enforced is still speculated upon. In the week before its arrival there came some very hard talk from the mayor and the chief of police.
The mayor stated that 300 squatted buildings and appartments in Amsterdam are to be evicted and that squatting is now a criminal offence and must be treated as so. The chief of police said “man power is no issue” and that the number of eviction waves are to be at least doubled.
This was very strong talk coming from the city officials and the response is as follows.
On the 25th of September an action weeks was initiated by squatters and sympathizers. The Dam square was occupied for a peaceful evening, the ex-fire brigade hq was occupied for a week to house activities and discussions and to serve as an info point for actions taking place during the week. During the week a few houses were squatted in the usual way (for amsterdam) and without abnormal from the police .
The night before the demo, it was reported in the press that Otto van der Bijl, a state prosecutor that has a personal vendetta against squatters and thus was beginning to make moves to evict houses, was threatened via messages supposedly spray painted outside his house and on his street. The messages, according to the press, read “An accident is just around the corner” and “Otto are you home”. In the same press report it said that Leen schaap (the chief of police) was also under threat as the license plate of his car was put on indymedia. The press reported that it was a call out for “a bomb to be placed underneath it”. The police reacted and Van der bijl and Schaap are now under 24hr surveillance and police protection. A police observation point, the same as is outside the American embassy, was erected outside Schaaps residence and is still there.
The demonstration to end the action weeks and to begin the defence of squatting in Amsterdam began at 17:00 on Friday the first of October with a wide variety of people showing their opposition to the squatting ban. There was roughly around 1000 people taking part in the demo, as reported by both the mainstream media and indymedia.
The demonstration began walking calmly, chanting and making it clear that police interference was not welcome; when the horse cops came too close fire crackers were sent in their direction and they moved to an acceptable distance. There were speeches read out in front of former squats and the police remained at distance.
The first point of potential conflict/provocation came at the crossing near the central station where the demo began to turn left to walk down the Spuistraat, the police commando wagon fitted out with cameras attempted to cut into the demo. This provocation was met with paint and verbal abuse and the demo calmly proceeded. A few hundred metres down the Spuistraat the demo stopped and from the demo a couple of appartments were squatted, a banner was dropped “made possible by the squatting ban”.
The demo remained at this spot for roughly 45 minutes. During this time the two head cops who hadbeen walking along side the demo attempted to push there way through the demo, it is believed they were trying to get to the new squat, this was an incredibly stupid idea on their part and when demonstrators turned to face them they became very afraid and backed into a shop. These two cops were directed out of the demo by a fellow protester who effectively saved them from a potential beating.
When the two cops were safely guided out of the demo another 10 normal cops with large sticks lined up and faced the demo in another provocative move but they soon realised what they were confronting themselves with, they also backed away and left.
The demo appeared to be passing peacefully and so decided to move towards the end point, the Spui square where it had began, however the cops had different ideas and when the demo had walked no more than 30 metres the cops blockaded the street and assembled themselves as so-first 6 to 8 horses, then a line of riot cops, then vans, then more riot cops, then riot cops with dogs.
The demonstrators were not exactly sure of what was about to happen, but the cops soon made it clear with a cavalry charge. This charge did not reach the demo as a hale of projectiles repelled the horses, at this point the horses ran down a side street. When the horses were gone the demo calmly walked towrds the riot cops and the riot cops charged brutally beating anyone they could. The riot cops were met with bricks, chairs, fireworks and bottles back for their troubles.
The police retreated and regrouped 3 times during this period and were incapable of beating the demo backwards or scattering it. During these 3 charges the police also made use of tear gas, that was three years out of date and thus unsafe for use, for the first time at a squatting related demo for almost 10 years in the Netherlands.
When the riot cops failed to clear the streets an estimated 20 horse cops charged from the back of the demo, despite there still being very young children around, and charged towards the front heavily assaulting protesters with their large truncheons. At this time the banners were finally lost and chaos ensued with some people departing the battlefield and others, defending themselves. During this street fight a car was over-turned in attempt to halt the oncoming assault from the police.
There was a particularly heavy conflict in the alley where the newly squatted house was, a lot of bricks were thrown at the police ere and a barricade was quickly built and there was an attempt made to set it on fire.
It is unclear how long the battle lasted on the Spuistraat, but before long it had spilled to the canals and side streets around. These canals and side streets the cops had no control over, the demonstrators literally ran riot in these side streets, luxury cars were smashed and it is alleged in the press that one luxury car was set on fire.
There was a significant fire set on one of the bridges and the police used a large amount of tear gas. Despite this the bridge was successfully defended, until it seemed the defendants lost interest. A large fire of garbage was set alight on the Muntplein, a central point from the tram routes, adding to the chaos around the city.
The riots lasted for about 3 hours. It was only towards the end that the police, began to make arrests. These arrests were made at random. People suspected of being involved were beaten up and thrown in the riot vans.
The newspapers reported that three police horses and two cops were injured. However numerous cops were sent to the hospital with ambulances and many cops were seen covered in their own blood, so it would be fair guess that the two cops mentioned in the press were seriously injured.
11 people were arrested, of these 5 were released without charge after two days. The other 6 were all released after three days. One of these people was charged with assaulting a police officer and the other five were charged with the broad term of “public violence”.- “public violence” covers everything from shouting on the street to rioting.
One protester was badly beaten by numerous cops and suffered a double skull fracture at the hand of the cops. This person is now in the process of suing the cops for attempted manslaughter.
Since the demo at least one person has been approached by the cops, who was filmed unmasked whilst at the demo, and they attempted to blackmail this person by suggesting that this person will receive lenient sentencing, despite not being arrested, if this person would do them the favour of naming the organisers of the demo.
In the days after the Mayor has said repeatedly that the police acted the best they could in the situation and he felt that they conducted themselves in a suitable way. He also says that the demo was for the most part relaxed, but 150 people were there with the intention to cause trouble and it is these 150 people that provoked the situation.
The following evening a police station was attacked with molotov cocktails in the west of amsterdam, it is unclear whether this was in any relation to the demo or the squatting ban however it adds to the tension and fear that the police are feeling.
The riot cops and horses remained on display for the following two days, and finally on Monday they went to evict the house. The eviction was conducted by a huge amount of cops, only to find no-one and to meet no resistance on the street.
On the day of the eviction the mayor went on television again to state that the house was evicted for a renter that magically appeared. A renter who lived in an empty house, unless his only possessions were a single empty beer can and a can of chocolate milk. No bed, no clothes. The house was confirmed as being empty by a neighbour in a television interview.
For the last few days safety measures were being taken by the police, water cannons were deployed to strategic points in the city, normal vans were wearing shields and the riot cops stuck around for a few days. However this has had an adverse affect upon the police force itself, cops have been over heard anxiously talking to each other worrying for their own safety.
Tensions are steadily growing here in Amsterdam. The new mayor has made clear that he will not tolerate squatting. The chief of police has said that police are ready in numbers and that they will mete out the law as necessary no matter what the cost to the public. A new government is nearly formed and it has stated its intentions to cut all public spending and to tighten the laws on foreigners, EU citizens included. The struggle we are entering is not a struggle for the re-legalization of squatting, it is a struggle against the government and the constraints they put upon our lives.
Law Or No Law, Squatting Goes On!