Karel Fassotte (1953), the Netherlands, Amsterdam, 30 April 1980
“If people want to know where I come from, I always say: ‘Out of the gutter’. I come from a working class background, and when I was eighteen years old, I was already living on the streets. I joined the squatters’ movement out of sheer necessity: there were no houses available for young people.
“In the late seventies, I became the director of a foundation that was pushing for housing for young people, but I knew that some tough action was needed to get real influence. Indirectly, I was asked to listen in on police channels at squatter riots, and that went very well.
“The coronation of Queen Beatrix on 30 April 1980 was the moment for us to expose the government and run amok. Our slogan? ‘No housing, no coronation’.
“The day before the inauguration, I brought the radio system to the Groote Keyser, six buildings that symbolised the squatters’ movement. With a group of four men, we had – in secret – furnished a room on the top floor of the building. From there, we could quickly get away with the equipment if need be. The buildings were barricaded with steel plates and on the roof were refrigerators and buckets of motor oil. The pantry was stocked with fireworks bombs.
“We had an ‘interference group’ and a ‘monitor group’. You could interfere by putting a carrier wave on the police signal and by transmitting at the same moment the police did. We made sure that the police speakers would make a screeching sound or a low hum. All those noises really grated on the police officers’ nerves: we could hear commanders swear and get frustrated. This created even more chaos on the streets.
“Right at the moment that it got out of hand at the Blauw bridge, I went into the city centre. Many people were about: squatters, but ordinary students as well and football supporters, curious people and hooligans. I was a professional activist: I was anti-militarist and anti-imperialist. But most people didn’t want a different society: they just wanted a place to live.
“I still see it as a great day. Every time we thought: ‘Now they’re not going to take it any longer.’ But the police didn’t have a choice. Later that night, we packed up the equipment, carried it down, loaded up the car and drove away.”
‘No housing, no coronation’
Amsterdam has had a housing shortage since World War II. From the mid-seventies, there has been an organised squatters’ movement. Squatting was allowed because moving into a house or building that had stood empty longer than one year was not a criminal offence. In the late seventies, the fight intensified. The culmination was reached on 30 April 1980, the day that Queen Beatrix was inaugurated. The squatters used the rhyming slogan: ‘Geen woning, geen kroning’ (‘No housing, no coronation’).