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To Get to the Other Side

A journey through Europe and its anarchist movements

Action Tour Against the Squatting Ban Begins with a Squat in Leiden

Translated from an article on Netherlands Indymedia, with invaluable idiomatic assistance from L

kraakactieActivists have just occupied the office building on the corner of Stationsplein and Schuttersveld in Leiden.  The building, which is located right near the infamous hole of the speculator Van de Putte, is on a long lease with Bonavella Holding B.V. from the same speculator.  The squat-action, which also signals the start of an action tour through the whole of Nederland, addresses the role speculators like Van de Putte play, and also the planned squatting ban of the Balkenende II cabinet.  The activists intend to continue holding actions during the rest of the week, and in one week’s time to turn the dilapidated building into a social center or free space in which the Multipleks, among others, can have a new space for all its current projects.[1]

The Action Tour in Different Cities

The renewed attack against the squatters, which Minister Dekker[2] has insisted on in the House of Commons for about a month and a half, has been answered in the previous weeks with a number of actions, large and small.  After banners appeared on squats through the entire country, beginning this month the Dam, Amsterdam’s main square, was occupied by activists.  Woonstrijd!, which surprised the Minister the previous year with an action-week at her villa resort in Wassenaar, today begins a continuation of this protest with an action-tour through different cities in the whole country.

Minister Dekker and Her Principles

SlapenOpdeDam

Squatting banned? Renting impossible? Then we'll go sleep on the central square!

Minister Dekker’s attack was aimed at the ideology of squatters: with the disappearance of the problem of vacant buildings, the ideological basis of squatting also disappears.  This identification of squatting exclusively with the problem of vacancy is actually an attempt to annul the diverse motives that people have to squat and the various actions and initiatives that are undertaken by squatting groups.  That squatting is also a part of a social struggle against the housing crisis[3] and for the conservation of subsidized housing for the poor is totally ignored by the Minister.  Moreover, the Minister has prattled lightly, from her villa, about the absolute and principled protection of ownership.  In current juridical practice, squatting rests on the assessment that in some situations the right to housing outweighs the absolute use-rights of an owner who, please note, does nothing with his private property.  The absolute protection of ownership desired by the Minister lines up with what speculators have achieved through underhanded means for years: to have housing and commercial space at their disposal in as flexible a manner as possible, so that they make robust profits off them.  Usury profits at the expense of many small shopkeepers and above all the tenants.

Duke of Dilapidation Van de Putte

The argument that squatting is outdated, and that a squatting ban is therefore inevitable, becomes clear particularly from the practices of Sir Ronnie van de Putte.  With over 30 years of speculation under his belt, the “work” of this “project developer” still has not come to an end.  After this slumlord left hundreds of houses to fall into shambles in the second half of the 70s, used goon squads [i.e., to beat up squatters] and illegally demolished apartments, especially in Amsterdam, he hasn’t stopped terrorizing society through his ruthless acquisition of property.  And through an extremely obscure and mercenary chain of businesses that, among other places, end in Curaçao, the ex-“Slumlord of Amsterdam” can easily escape prosecution.

In Leiden, Van de Putte is well known due to the yawning hole (which is now screened off by what is known in Leiden as “the shame-strip”) in front of Central Station.  It doesn’t stop there.  Elsewhere he is known for a crater in Noordwijk, a scandalous stain on Oisterwijk, and a collapsed building in Sluis.  And everywhere the story is the same: no municipalities can take action against the speculator.  Although the municipality of Leiden has been talking since the beginning of 2002 about dispossessing Van de Putte’s vacant lot, there’s not much to be seen in the way of actual results.

Because the project developer has held the Leiden office building in a long-term lease since 20 March, 2003, he threatens to take over large parts of the neighborhood around the station.  This is an even greater danger since the municipal council changed the lease terms for city grounds in a way that favors developers.

Social Center and Free Space

Leiden has just as little protection as other villages and cities from people like Van de Putte—people who make everyone’s social concerns and the personal lives of multitudes subordinate to their exclusive proprietary interests.  The newly squatted building stood empty for the better part of many years and, consistent with Van de Putte’s track record, was already considerably advanced in its decay and headed towards eventual demolition.  In response to this drawn-out drama, something needs to be done now.  During the Leiden action-week, we will clean up this considerably destroyed building and construct a free-space there.  The neighborhood around the station in Leiden can surely use some spicing up.  Ultimately, the intention is to get a spot in the squatted building for the projects from the Multipleks, such as an open source internet project, a food-café, cinema, and a bakfiets[4] workshop.  Numerous new initiatives will be developed as well.  Finally, a group of people will also come to live in the building.  In the rest of the week, more actions will follow.  Van de Putte out of the city!  Squatting lives on!


[1]The Multipleks is a squatted free-space/autonomous zone in Leiden that has existed since September 2004, and hosts internet cafés, info-evenings, eetcafes (roughly, food-cafés), squatting network meetings, cinema evenings, etc.

[2]The Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning, and Environment, in the cabinet of the second conservative coalition government under Jan Peter Balkenende.

[3]Literally “housing-need,” the word here refers less to a specific crisis and more generally to the compulsion under capitalism to acquire housing as a commodity and not a right, whereby people can need a house but not have one despite the availability of houses.

[4]A bakfiets is a quintessentially Dutch cross between a bicycle and a wheelbarrow, very useful for transporting heavy things around a city if you don’t have a car.

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