Amsterdam eviction by 150 riot police

On Monday 26th June 2000, the squatters of the Swammerdam neighbourhood in East Amsterdam were finally evicted by a massive police operation costing 600,000 guilders (180,000 British pounds). We can only presume this was necessary because 50 people living together communally, running a non-profit bar and infocafe, creating community garden space from derelict wasteland - in fact living together as a COMMUNITY - is nowadays considered just too dangerous and undesirable.

We were treated to a spectacular show of force: -150 riot police (with batons, shields and tear gas - thankfully they didn't use the gas), -50 plain clothes 'arresting' police, -one bulldozer, -one water cannon, -one 40-metre high crane, -and one helicopter.

Quite an ensemble! But a fantastic struggle was put up full of creativity, action and not a little bit of daring. After a couple of weeks of trying legal means to save our homes (during which time we had to deal with increasing police intimidation), we were finally given one day's notice of the eviction.

A support action was hastily planned - an occupation of the offices of De Key housing corporation who own the houses - which was really successful and peaceful, despite 40 riot police wanting to violently remove us, even though we were just 20 people, half of whom were lying on mattresses in the street to show that we were now homeless. We demanded that De Key call off the eviction immediately and stop their policy of selling-off social housing to be used as luxury apartments, but they seemed to all go mysteriously deaf at these suggestions.

All the streets leading into our neighbourhood were barricaded by 7am, the alarm call was sent out to all the squats in the city, and by 8 or 9 the streets were full of supporters. The forces of darkness seemed to have some difficulty getting out of bed however, and didn't arrive until the afternoon. They arrived to find banners hanging from all the buildings saying "why privatise when you can socialise?", "no pasaran", "senseless" and "we will be back". Dozens and dozens of well-aimed paint bombs gave some bursts of colour to the normally dull blue police vehicles...! After 6 hours the homes were finally evicted - the police tactic was constantly blasting the houses with water cannon and finally using a sea-container hanging from a 40-metre crane, filled with riot cops and when landed onto the rooftops the police spill out of it and then chainsaw their way into the house...

But the last laugh goes to us - the houses were strangely empty when the police finally got inside, not one squatter was to be found anywhere!! Where could they have escaped to and how?? Who knows...

The eviction and action got good coverage in all the national Dutch media, often very positive and sometimes even understanding the issues behind the squatting.

So 50 people are now homeless on friends' floors, but this will only make us stronger - the CIA infocafe re-opens in a new location this weekend, the tapas bar will soon follow, and more squats will be cracked!

------ For an archive about the Swammerdam squats (and soon a photo gallery) see ------

-- LATEST UPDATE!! -- The derelict land that was squatted and turned into a beautiful community garden over the past few months was completely destroyed this morning (Wednesday 28th June) by construction workers. They simply bulldozed everything flat and chopped down all the trees and plants with chainsaws. Local residents who supported the squatters and people in the unevicted squats in the neighbourhood are on the receiving end of constant harassment by builders and security guards even though they have every right to live their lives in their own neighbourhood.

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