Sun, Oct 03, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Dutch protest ban against squatting


More than 100 people protesting the outlawing of squatting at unused buildings in the Netherlands clashed with police in Amsterdam’s historic center late on Friday, throwing stones, setting fires and erecting barricades.

Squatting is the latest pillar of the country’s liberal institutions — such as legal prostitution and cafes that openly sell marijuana — to be abolished or curtailed as the Dutch become more conservative and rethink the boundaries of their famed tolerance.

In Amsterdam, the epicenter of the movement known in Dutch as kraken, or “breaking,” several hundred squatters had demonstrated peacefully during the day against the new law that makes their way of life punishable by up to one year in prison.

By nightfall, some began throwing rocks at police and vandalizing cars. Police attempted to disperse large groups on two streets by carrying out charges.

By mid-evening, squatters were using metal fences and piles of bicycles to block one of the city’s bridges amid a haze of tear gas. A photographer saw police using bulldozers and water cannons in an attempt to clear the streets lining the city’s ancient canals of such barricades and to quench small fires set in piles of rubbish.

A local television station published a photo of one protester being escorted away by a police officer while bleeding from a head wound. Police on the scene declined to comment on the number of arrests.

“Of course we’re going to resist: Resisting is part of what we do,” said a young English-speaking woman at a “squat,” or occupied building, next to the Amstel River, ahead of Friday’s protest.

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