Amsterdam would not be what it is today without squatters. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, many buildings, often old industrial properties, were saved from demolition by squatters.
Houses left empty and rotting by property speculators were brought back to life. The idea of ‘incubators’ – places where artists and small businesses operate for very low rents – grew out of the squatters movement. And big chunks of Amsterdam’s medieval city centre only exist today because of squatters.
Now, however, a nastier element is replacing much of the idealism. The Parool carries a story of one family in Amsterdam which was forced to abanson its home because of the violent squatters who moved into an empty flat upstairs. Housing corporations say new flats are squatted and then wrecked just for the hell of it.
The old hippies and punks have been replaced by those who are only interested in living for free.
Of course not all of today’s squatters are bad and squatting is still an important weapon against property speculation. It forces owners to do something with their buildings rather than let them become run-down.
But the people who set the booby trap for police in Amsterdam this week are not squatters but criminals, and deserve to be treated as such.
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