Netherlands: A report on the eviction of Ubica squat

Utrecht, Holland: 24 May 2013, night time…

Suddenly they came storming out. They were ten or fifteen. Black clothes, hooded. They had a fire extinguisher, a ladder, paint and some tires with them. And gasoline. The great final act of the sad drama of the Fall of Ubica had started.

The tensions were high up to eleven o’clock. Nobody knew what was going to happen. It seemed such an ordinary Friday night for beer drinkers on the square, Ganzenmarkt. Another week working, another night consuming. Nothing to worry about; tomorrow is another day like any other. But three visitors knew better. They heard that the squatters would not just give up their home after 21 years. “Not without a fight”, was announced on Indymedia. But, of course, no time was indicated, so it was nail biting and waiting. One thing was certain: the city hall will soon not look the same.

If you just had gone inside to order a beer, you would have missed the spectacle. As soon as they emerged, the “ninja-like types”, as they were later described in the media, disappeared again. Suddenly the city hall was blue and the square was on fire.

It was clearly a well-coordinated action. The group knew exactly what they were doing. A person trashed the city hall with blue paint and then gave a window a good smack with the fire extinguisher. Meanwhile, someone else repainted a security camera. And right in front of Ubica, a barricade of tires was set on fire. Among the jet-black smoke from the tires, which filled the whole square, the people dressed in black disappeared. On the roof of Ubica, people with hoods also appeared. Out the window a banner was unfurled: “Vloet may ruin Ubica again?” (Vloet is the owner of the house and a notorious Utrecht speculator.) And from the roof: “BRING IT ON THEN!”

The audience stood apathetic, looking on at first. But when the tires began to crackle, they woke up. Meanwhile the people on the roof shot off some fireworks. A free show on the weekend! They had not expected this. They filled the show itself with a cascade of prejudices: Hippies! Profiteers! They’re on welfare! They do nothing all week!  Unfortunately, they were unaware that they were present at a historical moment. Violent resistance against Capital — who would have even dreamed of this in 2013, in the Netherlands?

The police did not arrive for quite a long time. The first two cops arrived in a panic. They started to block one entrance to the square three times. They forgot — or they did not dare to come to the other side. Those occupying the roof had enough paint bombs ready to fill the whole square.

By megaphone, police ordered the disaster tourists to leave the square. This was not obeyed. Only when the square was hit with paint from Ubica, did it empty in no time. A heavy rocket was fired at the square, aimed at the police car parked in front of the city hall.

Suddenly, then the popo were everywhere. Undercover cops, horses, riot police, ordinary uniformed police and even the city guard and a helicopter were deployed. From that moment no one could leave or enter the square. People who lived right next to Ubica were unlucky. They had to wait for the eviction to be completed to get home. The evacuation lasted sixteen hours.

The initial shock on the cafe terraces was gone. Little was happening outside. The fire on the square spread to a nearby trash container. The people on the roof had the square well colored and threw down occasional heavy fireworks. The police waited, the residents were inside their house, barricaded in every possible way and chained to the house.

The riot cops found an entrance on the side and climbed a window with a ladder. It was not clear what exactly they did there. But it could be heard. The few who returned, were almost unrecognizable as riot cops: completely covered in paint.

It was only at 15.00 the next day (25/5) that the last squatter was removed from the house. It must have been a tiring night, but the plan was successful. To not wait in apathy to be dragged out of your house, to not wait for the announced eviction, but instead to go on frontal attack and make it as difficult as possible for the cops to carry through the eviction.

It is sad that, after 21 years, Ubica is back into the hands of Vloet. But if that was inevitable, then at least it happened after heavy resistance. And despite everything, they have succeeded. The squatters have taken matters into their own hands and displayed dignified resistance to the corrupt housing polices.

Squatting continues!