Tagged: Squat

Squat

In the summer of 2011, squatters take over an unused building, once an animal shelter, and begin renovating it into a social and cultural center for a neighborhood on the outskirts of Amsterdam. They call it Op de Valreep ("in the nick of time"). But the corporation in charge of it, that has let the building languish for years (OCP, which stands for Ontwikkelingscombinatie Polderweggebied), makes moves to kick the squatters out, and the local city council says it's powerless to oppose the corporation. 

In September 2011, Yes Lab members facilitate a brainstorm at the squat, and the squatters come up with a plan to publicize the situation in the media and, especially, in the neighborhood.

First, the squatters print 7000 copies of a fake neighborhood newspaper that they distribute all around the neighborhood, that gives some great news: the city council has decided to oppose OCP, and will give de Valreep to the neighborhood in a big public ceremony a few days away. The squatters also make a fake OCP website. (The city council puts a warning on its website about the newspaper and website, but nobody sees it.)

Then, the whole neighborhood is invited to a gifting ceremony, to be presided by city council alderman Thijs Reuten. For the occasion, the squatters wrap the entire building in a giant blue ribbon, with a gift card addressed to the neighborhood. Many people from the neighbourhood, as well as journalists and politicians, show up for the ceremony (click for video), which is complete with (fake) OCP businessmen who interrupt the speech (click for video) before the fake "Reuten" quiets the objection by the OCP stooges, informing them that his government has made its decision.

Many of the neighbors in attendance are disappointed to find out it's a hoax, but it increases their desire to see the site used for good. The event makes the top article in the Amsterdam section of Amsterdam's biggest newspaper; in the article, a (real) local politician argues that the building should indeed be given to the neighborhood. Through the whole action, many neighbors are engaged and turned into pro-squat activists, and the de Valreep crew considers it their most successful public campaign to date.

Stay tuned—de Valreep has more plans!

Selected press:

 

Photos (by Nico Jankowski):

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On June 18, 2014 Op de Valreep which won Alert Fund's Most Valued Project Award, was evicted by city government but not before activists put up an epic thirteen hour resistance where riot cops had to break through massive barricades and angle grind loose more than 10 people out of lockons. The neighbourhood has lost her living room, the city has lost one of her very, very few last free spaces, the politic establishment has lost all their credibility and Valreep volunteers have lost their home. But as they told the Yes Men:

WE DIDN' T LOSE OUR IDEALS!

Read the Eviction timeline here.

Despite a major campaign in the run-up to the elections, where the posters of all political parties were spoofed…
Despite putting the city slogan "I AMsterdam" in massive three dimensional letters on top of the roof…
Despite going to the city council for the hundredth time with hundreds of sympathisers, thousands of signatures, and a fullsize brassband…
Despite the massive support from the neighbourhood, in the city, throughout the country…
Despite winning the Alert fund Most Valued Project Award…

…Despite all of that, the city stubbornly decided to evict social centre Op de Valreep, the peoples initiative that was free to everyone and was run for almost three years solely by volunteers and without subsidies.

The city government has NEVER granted Valreep's SINGLE demand: Let us present our plans and consider us for renting/buying the place. We have a valid businessplan and investors backing that plan.

The Valreep will probably remain empty for a year, or more likely a few years, or as the case may be much longer, as they will presumably focus on redevelopment of the surrounding grounds. Eventually it will be renovated into yet another posh grand cafe (for the elite).

Despite the sense of loss of Valreep, its crucial to look at what worked.Valreep volunteers wrote in that they were able to survive for three years by enacting a massive campaign which incorporated feedback from The Yes Men. The kind of person to person, online to on-the-ground collaboration, support and hard core organizing that the Action Switchboard is rolling out to the wider movement very soon.

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