European squatters show solidarity

European squatters show solidarity

8th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

In Berlin, German squatters sympathising with the Dutch squatters movement threw orange and blue paint bombs and stones at the Dutch embassy last weekend. Solidarity protests also took place in Spain, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Austria.

The action was taken in protest against a ban due to come into force on 1 January. Squatting in the Netherlands has been tolerated since the climax of the squatters' movement in the 1970s.

Then a Squatting Act was introduced allowing squatters' occupy buildings that had stood empty for at least 12 months. At the moment squatters can only be prosecuted for breaking in, which effectively means as long as they are not caught in the act they can legally squat a building.

The authorities will leave them in peace unless the owner of the property could prove he had immediate plans for the premises.

Peaceful demonstrations

Earlier peaceful demonstrations were held outside the German embassy. The vice consul Derk Oldenburg told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that two windows were broken. The night watchman had seen it happening but were too late to intervene and the perpetrators got away. The building, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, was slightly damaged.

afp photo
Exterior view of the embassy of the Netherlands near the river Spree in Berlin and designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands inauguratated the embassy 02 March 2004

"It is very appropriate that they used orange paint, but this should not happen," said the vice consul.

In a press release, the Dutch squatters' movement say "By demonstrating at Dutch embassies, they are showing their support for squatters in the Netherlands who have been confronted by the ban."

Dutch squatters held National Squatters' Action Days on Sunday in protest against the ban on squatting. During the protest 21 houses became occupied by squatters.

Shipping containers
In Amsterdam a students squatters' advice bureau, the SKSU squatted three student homes. The homes are built in converted shipping containers by local councils to combat the high level of homelessness among students.

According to the SKSU out of 1000 containers in the capital, 161 are empty. The SKSU says: "It is scandalous that so many containers stand empty while 9500 students are looking for accommodation."

In Den Bosch, a house was squatted that had stood empty for 15 years. In Groningen, a huge building was occupied by squatters who plan to turn it into homes, artists' studios and workplaces.

Shift in attitude

Under the new legislation squatters face a maximum prison sentence of one year. If violence or intimidation are used this could be doubled and squatters in groups could face sentences of up to almost three years.

Photo source: youtube footage
More than 1,000 squatters and sympathizers joined a national protest in Utrecht, Holland against new legislation to outlaw squatting in October 2009

They can also be prosecuted without being caught in the act of breaking into a building.

The stricter legislation shows a shift in attitudes to squatting in the Netherlands, Once squatting was seen as a legitimate means to combat speculation by property developers.

Nicola Chadwick
Radio Netherlands


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