Amsterdam: Report from the Court Case

On Wednesday the 19th of October we presented ourselves at court. The Gemeente Amsterdam realizing they did not have a strong case, ours was a civil court case. In the current climate after the illegalization of squatting in 2010, this is quite unusual. Most of the times squatters have to open a court-case against the state to fight for their right of habitation.

On the plaintiff’s side, two lawyers and their clients were present. It was easy for us to figure out who was who at first sight – the meagre man on the left from us a City Council representative, in fact Mr. Van Dijk, coordinator of Real Estate Administration at the Stadsdeel Zeeburg; the stout man to the right the former renter, Mr. Drenth from Drenth Autoschade B.V.

From the very beginning of the session, the judge seemed to be keenly aware of the main contradiction on part of the accusants – how come the City Council and the renters suddenly decided it was so urgent to get rid of us, if it took them 1,5 years to come around to do a court-case in the first place?

As the other sides’ lawyers started discoursing, there was no hiding the unfoundedness of their accusations, for example with statements such as “they had a fire, well, not a real fire”. Whereas in the summons Drenth had written they were using the house on a regular basis before the moving in of the squatters, before the judge they just had to admit: “Yes, the house has been in a very bad state for a long time, the waterpipes have been cracked and spurting since two years ago”. The signs announcing Drenth moved “i.v.m. renovatie” (“because of renovations”) are still hanging outside our gate and house, but no kind of renovations were ever initiated.
They claimed to have been paying 1258,25 euros rent a month but could not even show any documents to prove so, nor could they prove any intentions to use the house again. There was a moment when Mr. Drenth tried to play a tear-jerking lament, but became entrapped in his own guile: “I feel bereaved they took our building, it was so useful for the postcode.” You could hardly come up with a more explicit statement to show his company really does not care about the abandoned building. This was only one of the points where our initial impression that Drenth only joined the court case because he was pushed by the city was corroborated.
Yet, even the postcode story is entirely implausible, because Drenth unregistered from the Cruquiusweg in 2008 already, two years before it was squatted.

As for the second party against us present, the representative of the City Council could not have been more vague about the development plans for the terrain of Cruquiusweg 84/86 (“Well, we want to do something. But we have no plans…”), and seemed to have not much else to say. Maybe they thought coming up with the disputed luxury marina would sound too far-fetched and controversial?

The main accusations levelled against us were those of having had campfires, outside and in the house, the latter a most ridiculous notion (although we had two small barbecues outside). There also was the impromptu new allegation of us supposedly using wood ovens, which is completely not true.

When coming round to another ludicrous accusation stated in the summons, that of us catering to supposed “customers” in our house, our representative was up to the mark: “No, we don’t sell art pieces”, she stated, and went on to extemporize “we are not that good.” Hard fact though this may be, that made for some laughter.

Cruquiusweg 86 []