2016-09-18----- <EL PAIS> "La aventura de ser okupa en Holanda" ||| The adventure of being a squatter in the Netherlands

On September 18th. 2016, Spanish newspaper El Pais published an article about the ADM. You can read it online here

For all you non-Spanish speakers, below you'll find the translation in English



The adventure of being a squatter in the Netherlands

Spanish, German, Italian or Polish figures and a movement inseparable of Amsterdam

author: Isabel Ferrer
Amsterdam, September 18th. 2016

A family at the squatted ADM terrain, earlier in July, in Amsterdam / photo by Sonja Wedel (ADM)

With her daughter Anna, almost two years, on her back, Bep Schrammeijer opens the gate that gives access to the ADM terrain, the oldest and most outstanding squat in Amsterdam. Pregnant with her second child, she has been living in this place with her partner since 2009. ADM is the acronym for the company that operated in the sixties a dry dock in a port north of the city. Sold by the city in 1997 to a businessman who was killed in a settling of debts, some 120 people, including about 15 children are now living here.

There are caravans and trailers, log cabins, house boats, a Mongolian yurt and houses like the one of Schrammeijer, distributed over 25 hectares (40, if the corresponding water is added). With large windows and a rustic stove in the center, home to a mother of 36 years old, it has water, electricity and wifi. It looks fancy, but it is not. She admits that this kind of life, in the middle of a forest that emerged naturally, "is not for everyone, because it means living outside the society."

Hay Schoolmeesters, 56, the oldest of the squatters at the ADM emphasizes: "We are not just a community that aims to avoid the payment of rent. We live in community and feel an obligation to do something for the city." Aukje Polder, 33 years old, sister to Schrammeijer's partner, exemplifies: "[Thus] we organize cultural events and those are attended with up to 7,000 people."

Over the terrain looms the shadow of eviction. Although in the buying contract the use is restricted for shipbuilding activities, if the City does not buy it again, the heirs may end up winning in court. In the city, property owners have chosen a method that involves anti-squatting; a few tenants rent their buildings to prevent others from entering. The movement of the seventies and eighties, with about 10,000 involved, has been disappearing from the city center of Amsterdam. Since its outlawing in the country in 2010, mainly it is a temporary adventure, started mostly by young foreigners, many of them Spanish, German, Italian or Polish.

Both Schrammeijer and Schoolmeesters as well as Polder have jobs, and maybe that's one of the first misunderstandings surrounding the Dutch squatters. Bursting into a space to denounce property speculation, or lack of affordable housing, but once inside neglecting the payment of electricity and gas. Schrammeijer is a researcher at the University of Amsterdam, specializing in Earth Sciences. Schoolmeesters leads an organization that seeks empty spaces for entrepreneurs in the creative sector. And Polder works with the homeless. All utilities are paid, and they use the old offices and the warehouse on site. Recognized as a fundamental right since the seventies, the water hasn't been cut off.

"Society has changed and the squatters by choice of today are standing out. 35 years ago, when I was squatting, you had to keep studying and scholarships or subsidies kept you in society. That's why you couldn't pay for gas and electricity. In the eighties it was a pragmatic and large movement without prevailing ideologies." says Eric Duivenvoorden, sociologist and leading historian of the movement.

2,000 people

"Now there are a couple of hundred of floors squatted by some 2,000 people, and maybe there are a couple of trends. In my time it was more a pragmatic community with different people. For example, Jet Bussemaker, current Minister of Culture, and Jetta Klijnsma, Secretary of State for Social Affairs, were squatters. Today subsidies are difficult to obtain, and for new generations it means that life is hard." says the sociologist.

When the ban came into force in 2010, all mayors in the Netherlands protested. In Amsterdam, the City Council, which in 2012 had evicted about 300 buildings, carefully applies the rule. "Analyze whether the public order is violated and look for alternative accommodation. It ensures that if the owners have no immediate plans for the building, no one has to go out. The police, the municipality and the squatters have learned a lot, and the main thing is to eradicate violence, because it generates loss of popular support." according to Duivenvoorden.

Urban nomads and original squatters

Author: I. FERRER, Amsterdam

Some of the properties squatted in his days in Amsterdam are now owned by the movement itself. The best known is called Vrankrijk and it is in the city center. Squatters in 1982 managed to purchase an apartment building, and since 1992 it has a café, cultural center and a concert hall. "Buying in the same way the ADM, located in an old wharf of the port, is more difficult. As there has grown another settlement in front, this community is somewhat forgotten." says Paul Vugts, newspaper editor of Het Parool. He refers to the urban nomads, who have settled in a village consisting of several caravan in front of the gate (a gate which opens with a code) on land occupied by ADM's original squatters. "There are about 250 people and have different social or medical problems. They need specialized help and we do not let them in, but the deal is friendly. There's all kinds; from people without papers to others with addictions, but we can not look after them." says Hay Schoolmeesters, who has been living for 19 years at the ADM. When problems occur, the police comes. The rest of the time, both communities lead parallel lives.