Protestors march against anti-squatting law

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More than 1000 squatters and sympathisers joined a national protest in the central city of Utrecht against new legislation to outlaw squatting. The Lower House voted in favour of the bill last week.

Speakers addressed a rally, and the demonstration was accompanied by performances and music. The squatters’ message was that they intend to go on occupying buildings despite the ban. They claim that thousands of people will otherwise be made homeless. The demonstration was largely peaceful, though at one point protestors clashed with police, who used batons to disperse the crowd.

Present Dutch law permits squatting provided the building has been unoccupied for more than a year. Although it is illegal to break into a building in order to squat it, in practice prosecution is only possible if the culprits are caught in the act. Under the new legislation, however, squatters risk a prison sentence of up to a year.

The squatting ban was an initiative by MPs from the senior and junior coalition parties, the Christian Democrats and Christian Union. It was carried with the support of the conservative VVD and far-right Freedom Party. The Freedom Party only agreed to support the bill when it had been amended to raise the maximum prison sentence.

The second-largest party in the ruling coalition, the Labour Party, opposes the legislation, along with the opposition parties on the left. Opponents’ only hope now is that the bill will be rejected by the upper house.