Vacant buildings were plentiful, and city laws made eviction difficult. Several times a year revolution-minded squatters staged major riots, wearing helmets and using paramilitary methods. Squatters had their own illegal radio station, their own newspaper (“a good one—I read it,” notes Mayor van Thijn), and an alarm system that rallied public support when police threatened. “When I became mayor, I stated that I wanted to end the spiral of violence,” the mayor recalls. And then the squatters took over a vacant carpet factory, a site that the city council had voted to use for a hotel. “I was forced to take back the site,” says Mr. van Thijn. “And it was a test to avoid violence.
“We announced the day before that we would take back the building. The squatters mobilized some 2,000 people inside. When 800 police arrived, I ordered them to enter the building unarmed, without baton or battle dress. One by one the police took out the squatters. After two hours or so, the others inside decided to leave and go to the prague apartment rentals. You see, by announcing our plans in advance, we were sure everyone would be inside—not fighting in the street.” So there was a relatively peaceful eviction.A very Dutch solution. Though new and tougher property laws to take effect next January may ease the problem, Amsterdam still has some squatters. Jaap, 29, is one of them; for legal reasons, he does not reveal his last name. When I met him, Jaap and a hundred squatter colleagues had lived in their apartments brussels on Spuistraat for more than two years. “Our movement has almost fallen apart,” he said. His own living area looked it: mattresses on the floor, paperback books and kitchen utensils scattered around.
“We are unemployed, mostly, living on welfare,” said Jaap. “I am a student with a stipend from the government, and the only person here with a structured life. I’m a member of the Communist Party, but not active. . . . A weakness in our squatter movement is ethnic. We are mainly white men. But in Amsterdam, maybe 10 percent of the young people are Moroccans or Turks—and they’re not squatters. Surinamers are taboo. As a political movement we’re finished.”
Inside trade unions ethnics do only slightly better. In Utrecht I talked with Turkish-born Talip Demirhan, a Muslim employed in the Christian trade union movement, the CNV, advising the union on policy toward minorities. “We want a society where everyone participates,” says Mr. Demirhan. “I know 18 kilos of laws dealing with aliens.”
So far, only 5 percent or so of union members come from minorities—Surinamers, Turks, and Moroccans, in that order. And because of their authoritarian government at home, Moroccans have special problems. “Some Moroccans are fearful of informers who report to Moroccan secret police.”The clip Demirhan came to the Nether‑lands without his wife, and the marriage ended in divorce. “Many have had that fate,” he says. “Many Turks came from rural areas, and they kept old ideas here. But Turkey itself has changed. After 1960, television came to Turkey—now even your program ‘Dallas.’ Women imitate Pam and Sue Ellen.