Saturday 20 January 2018

Rioters battle with police as Dutch slap ban on squatting

More than 100 people protesting over the outlawing of squatting at unused buildings in the Netherlands clashed with police in Amsterdam's historic centre, throwing stones, starting fires and erecting barricades.

Police said that 11 protesters were arrested and two officers, three police horses and a number of demonstrators received minor injuries.

Dutch television broadcast footage of police with batons battling squatters in narrow streets and alleys, with the protesters throwing rocks and setting off fireworks. One young woman with a mohawk haircut was shown being escorted away by a police officer while bleeding from a head wound.


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.

In Amsterdam, the epicentre of the movement known in Dutch as "kraken" or "breaking", several hundred squatters had demonstrated peacefully yesterday against the new law that makes their way of life punishable by up to a year in prison.

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

By mid-evening, an eye-witness saw squatters using metal fences and piles of bicycles to block one of the city's bridges amid a haze of tear gas.

Police used bulldozers and water cannons in an attempt to clear the streets lining the city's ancient canals of such barricades and to quench fires set in piles of rubbish.

A study published this year by Amsterdam's Free University estimated the number of squatters at roughly 1,500 in the Dutch capital, a city of 750,000.

Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan says he plans to gradually empty the city's remaining 200 squats.


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