How an action helped squatters help neighbors save a squat

An Amsterdam neighborhood thrills that the City is recognizing their local squat—and then helps to save it from eviction, for real. Sometimes fiction leads to reality!

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 (OCP, or Ontwikkelingscombinatie Polderweggebied), makes moves to kick out the squatters, and the local city council says it's powerless to oppose them.

In September 2011, Andy facilitates 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, they print and distribute 7000 copies of a fake neighborhood newspaper announcing great news: the city council has decided to officially gift the de Valreep squat to the neighborhood, in opposition to OCP. (The actual city council sends out a warning about the fake newspaper, but nobody sees it.)

The whole neighborhood is invited to a gifting ceremony, to be presided by city council alderman Thijs Reuten. The squatters wrap the entire building in a giant blue ribbon, with a gift card addressed to the neighborhood. At the ceremony—attended by many neighborhood residents, journalists, and politicians—a lookalike "Reuten" makes it official. Two fake OCP businessmen interrupt the speech, but "Reuten" informs them that his government's decision is firm, and they quiet down.

Many of the neighbors in attendance are disappointed to find out it's a hoax, but the experience increases their desire to see the site used for good. In an article in Het Parool, Amsterdam's biggest newspaper, a (real) politician argues that the building should indeed be given to the neighborhood. Many neighbors become engaged and turned into pro-squat activists, and the de Valreep crew considers it their most successful public campaign to date.

As a result of this action, the squat continues another three years!