On September 12th, activist group WoonProtest organized a protest against the housing crisis that plagues the Netherlands. The fields of the Westerpark was brimming with thousands of protestors expressing their outrage with the government.
During the protest WoonProtest and several other organizations associated with the movement advocated squatting, which is illegal.
One of these groups was the anarchist movement Vrije Bond. At the scene they carried banners, flyers and chanted slurs against the government.
Their primary message: ‘’Squat!’’
Joel Van Berg, who has been on a waiting list for social housing, says: “We’ve had enough, if The Hague doesn’t help us we will help ourselves.’’ Some people are on social housing waiting lists for more than 10 years, and cannot afford privatized housing.
Police was also at the scene in large numbers. Their neon green vests stood out from the thousands of protestors, yet the mood at Westerpark seemed amiable. When asking an officer what they’d do if squatting would occur the officer said: ‘’We’ll have to stop them, it’s our job.’’
After the demonstration thousands of protestors marched on to the streets of Amsterdam. The amiable mood turned sour in an hour.
Some of the anarchist groups were amongst the crowds and continued to scream for squatting.
Later during the march reports came in of individuals being arrested for squatting.
In the evening the police unit of Amsterdam made an announcement that dozens of protestors had been arrested. The police speaks of branching groups unrelated to the peaceful protestors from Westerpark.
Later reports came in of people being bludgeoned by police officers with their batons. This however has been defused by police officials. Stating if this was the case, ‘’The Dam would be filled by ambulances,’’ the police’s spokesperson told Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool.
Although it was evident that squatters were present at the protest – Instagram account @Forumvooranarchisme even took credit for some of the squatting – not all who support the housing crisis activism agree with squatting.
‘’I think most people don’t agree with it, The Hague shouldn’t allow guys to illegally sit in buildings,’’ Daan Koens says about the squatters. Koens is a ghost person; a ghost person is someone who isn’t registered as a house owner/tenant and therefore cannot request government subsidies.
The current government opposes squatting strongly: ‘’Squatters are not allowed to get away with it without prosecution,’’ Ferd Grapperhaus said during a chamber debate in 2018.
WoonProtest is organizing another housing protest on the 17th of October, this time in Rotterdam.
Credits: Emma Harrisova on Unsplash