Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Right to Occupy Disused Property Threatened in the Netherlands

Table Bed Chair - A documentary about the squatter scene of Amsterdam by Robert Hack and Jakob Proyer from DCTV on Vimeo.

Table Bed Chair is a documentary about the squatter scene of Amsterdam. The film combines insights into the history of the squatter movement and its particularly well developed autonomous structures and practices with a focus on the extraordinary legalsituation in the Netherlands."Squatting is taking over an empty house, basically." With this statement, cool and precise at once, the viewer is introduced to the world of the ‘krakers’, as Amsterdam’s squatters are called.

Table Bed Chair sketches a documentary portrait of the movement by inquiring into ideological approaches and real-world alternatives to existing social structures. Explosive archival footage traces the historical roots of the movement to its climax in the volatile years of the 1980s when up to 10.000 krakers lived in squatted houses in Amsterdam.Contrasting interviews are used to explore differing points of view on issues such as self-organisation, autonomy and ideology, as well as violence as a legitimate means in the struggle.

"Squatting will go on!" For decades, this has been the national rallying cry of the Dutch squatters' movement. But if a current parliamentary majority has its way, their activities will soon be dealt a swift and lethal blow. Radio Netherlands (with another video).

Dutch squatters are under fire. After a series of incidents surrounding evictions, a majority in the lower house of parliament is in favour of a ban on squatting. "They should just keep their hands off other people's property." The squatting scene is in shock.

The words of Christian Democrat MP Jan Ten Hoopen sum up the anti-squatting mood.
"Squatting has become far too blunt an instrument to combat speculation. It doesn't suit the times any more. It causes annoyance and inconvenience, and a lot of damage that can't be recouped."He has the wind behind him, following a series of turbulent evictions in Amsterdam, the bastion of the squatters' movement. Apart from being on the receiving end of what has become a traditional barrage of paint bombs, the Amsterdam police claim that unpleasant surprises awaited them once they entered the buildings. According to Chief of Police Hans Schönfeld, the police encountered "booby traps and snares, which in one case actually enabled the squatters to make the ceiling collapse". Squatting ban threatened after eviction incidents

Squatting in Holland
According to the law in Holland, just three objects are essential to declare a squat: a bed, a table and a chair. Bart and his house mates brought those things with them as they moved in.

To what extent today do you think squatters are appreciated or demonized?

"I think in Amsterdam they are still appreciated by most of the population. People will feel that squatters are kind of weird, maybe deviant people, but at the same time they recognise that they have a very important role to play. In a city that has such a huge demand for space and is so much under the threat of commercialisation, squatters do provide a powerful antidote." Uiterman Justus Uitermark, University of Amsterdam

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