Geert Lovink on Fri, 27 Jun 1997 00:02:09 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> general report on the Amsterdam EU protests


On June 16 and 17 Amsterdam was host for a European Summit that
should result in the Treaty of Amsterdam. This treaty can be
considered to be even a worsening compared to the Maastricht
Treaty, and therefor a threat to workers, unemployed, and
immigrants inside and outside the EU. Because of this, a very
big number of demonstrations was organised. The municipality of
Amsterdam wanted to use the opportunity to work on a new image.
We must admit the towm succeeded.

Before the summit the police and the mayor of Amsterdam every
time again stressed that Amsterdam should show itself as it is:
demonstrations and other actions would be tolerated as long as
they were held outside the security zones. Strange enough the
police seemed very worried about the announcement of the 'Days
of Chaos': in an internationally spread pamphlet it was announ-
ced that those days (that caused big riots in Hannover, BRD,
last year) should be celebrated in Amsterdam in the weekend
before the summit. Activists didn't take the announcement very
serious, but the police did. The police started an investigati-
on to the producers of the pamphlet and started visiting a
number of (squatted) houses to warn the occupiers not to give
shelter to visitors from outside the Netherlands. 
>From Friday 13th onward, we have been confronted with police
conducts that were unknown in the Netherlands so far. 
An overview on four days of police terror:

Friday 13.06

Although the summit will begin on the 16th of June, protests
against it are already heard. The alternative summit has
started on Thursday. The police in Den Haag is offering a
fortaste of things to come; participants in the Marches that
want to travel by train from Den Haag to Leiden are beaten up
at the station because they refuse to buy a ticket (in a
protest against growing poverty). One person breaks him arm,
some other are wounded as well.
This Friday the 'Days of Chaos' will start at 18.00. As all
expected nothing happens. Only some punks are lying in the sun,
drinking beer. They are being watched by a lot of policemen and
international press. When those leave, the about 200 punks
decide to do the same and start walking in the direction of the
Dutch Bank. On their way some flag-poles with summit flags and
one window of the French consulate are broken. Police and press
react immediately. An enormous amount of riot police and police
vans arrive and a lot of people are arrested very roughly. What
remains of the group is being chased over town. The police
later declares that 17 arrests were made; eyewitnesses say that
much more were arrested, probably fifty.

Saturday 14.06

50.000 people demonstrate against poverty, social exclusion and
unemployment. The police tries to control the peaceful demon-
stration: on the Central Station they seize a red/black flag
because 'it is forbidden to be Anarchist during the summit'.
The demonstration is so big that the whole centre of town is
filled with it. On it's way again flag-poles with summit-flags
are being broken. A group of some hundred demonstrators disag-
rees with the official route and make a half-hearted attempt to
go to the Dutch Bank. The police very easily can prevent this.
Just as the group is about to continu the official route, the
police tries to arrest someone. A small 'riot' is the conse-
quence. Some moments later the windows of a bank at the Leidse-
plein are smashed and one police van is pushed over. The police
decides that it has been enough: near the head quarters of
police they make a square attack on the demonstration, in which
they very roughly beat 300 people out of the demonstration. The
riot police seems especially interested in the heads of demon-
strators. People start throwing with everything they can lay
their hands on; also observers start attacking the police. It
looks as if the police wants to surround a part of the demon-
stration, but for a reason unknown to us they decide not to
complete their action. The demonstration therefor goes on to
the Dam square, breaking the remaining flag-poles on its way. 

When the demonstration arrives at the Dam square it turns out
that a group of 131 Italians is being held hostage at the
Central Station. They were part of a group of 3000 Italians
that wanted to join the demonstration. All of them have been
prohibited to leave the train. Directly after the demonstartion
about most Italians are allowed to leave the train. Almost 200
must stay in the train. They are being held at the station
because they are accused of damaging the train that brought
them to Amsterdam. After a few hours the group is being hand-
cuffed and transferred to a prison in Amsterdam. Near the
station people that protest against this are being beaten up by
the police. Later that night the Italians are put on the train
back to Italy. In this period they got no water or food. In
Germay the trains is stopped several times. It later shows that
the Dutch and German authorities are putting pressure on Italy
to arrest the group after arriving in Italy. The Italian
authorities refuse to do so. 
The reason for the special treatment of the Italians is not
clear. Officialy it is said that they damaged the train; on the
other hand there are statements by the prosecutor that the
police wanted to prevent that the Italians would join the
German and Dutch 'autonomous blocks' in the demonstration. The
funniest statement by the prosecutor: "If you saw what was
coming out of this train, than you know what could have happe-

In a television interview later this evening the mayor tells to
be very pleased with the demonstration: 'unique in the history
of the EU', 'so may people from so many countries', 'a privili-
ge for Amsterdam'. On questions about the incidents during the
demonstration he answers that compared to the amount of demon-
strators nothing really happened; just some broken windows of a
bank and one police van pushed over is neglectable, especially
compared to what happens in other countries in demonstrations
like this. According to the mayor, Amsterdam has shown that it
can be host for opponents of the EU as well. Not a word on the
treatment of the Italians.

The people that joined the Marches, and who arrived from all
over Europe on Friday, were given a hospitable reception by the
municipality of Amsterdam. They can shake hands with the mayor
on Friday afternoon and get shelter in a school in Amsterdam-
west. After the demonstration on Saturday they are tired and
want to go to bed. An unpleasant surprise: the municipality has
decided that its hospitality will last till Saturday evening.
Under the device "your demonstration is over" the marchers are
thrown on the street in the middle of the night. A part of them
is angry about this treatment and refuses to leave the school.
The police beats them out. So far the proverbial Dutch hospita-

Sunday 15.06

Three demonstrations: a streetrave (Legalize!) against the EU
drug policy; the Ero summit for sexual diversity; a demonstra-
tion at the homo-monument for the rights of lesbians and gays. 
The route of the Legalize!-demonstration was planned in consul-
tation with the police. At the begin of the demonstration the
police orders another route. The organisers agree, the 2000
demonstrators don't. They dance their planned route, reminding
the police of the words of the mayor: demonstrations outside
the security zones will not be obstructed. Police provocations
during the streetrave are not answered. 
The Ero summit and the gay and lesbian demonstration are a big
success because of the omnipresent press.

In the morning there already is a high police activity near
Vrankrijk, one of the information points for demonstrators
against the EU. The streets are almost blocked by police and in
front of Vrankrijk the police is filming people with a special
video-van. People throw paint at the van to make the filming
In the evening it becomes clear why the police has been fil-
ming. People that leave Vrankrijk are arrested and charged on
the accusation of being 'member of a criminal organisation'
(section 140, Penal law). After 18.00h people who have visited
Vrankrijk are arrested all over the centre of town; some of
them by a police unit dressed in civil clothes, blindfolding
the people they arrested and transporting them in a black
At 21.00h a group of 350 people leaves Vrankrijk for a demon-
stration at the headquarters of police, to show their solidari-
ty with those arrested before. It will be the shortest demon-
stration of their lifes: after 20 meters they are surrounded by
riot police. The group sits down on the street to wait for what
will happen; the police 'cleans' the area around Vrankrijk.
Also the press is kept at a big distance. Press that can come
closer is obstructed when taking pictures of ill-treatment and
other violations by the police. All 350 people are arrested on
the charge of 'membership of a criminal organisation' (section
140). Also spectators that protest are arrested as members of
the same organisation. It is the biggest mass-arrest since

After the transport of the arrested people the police raises
their cordons. New demonstrators and other people that are
curious about what happened fill the bar in Vrankrijk: the
birth of a second criminal organisation. Again the neighbour-
hood is fenced off by the police, and it becomes clear that
they are planning a raid on Vrankrijk to arrest all inside.
People that leave the bar are arrested, handcuffed and trab-
sported as member of a criminal organisation. 
The arrested people are transported to prisons all over the

In the first comments on the police operation in which 382
people have been arrested, a lot of people show their disbelie-
ve on what happened. It is clear that the accusation of mem-
bership of a criminal organisation is only meant to keep people
from the streets for a few days, till after the summit. It also
becomes clear that the operation was planned long before the

Monday 16.06

The actual start of the summit. In the centre of Amsterdam the
police control is absolute. Vans and riot police are everywhe-
re, raid vans are crossing through town and observation units
are working overtime. Everywhere people are arrested, arbitrary
and only because of their appearance. In 'de Pijp', an area far
away from all political activity, 7 people are arrested for
'violation of the prohibition of gathering'. 
In the afternoon there will be a demonstration against the
European migration policy. The organisors mean to go by bicycle
to the refugee prison in Amsterdam South East, and pass by the
Dutch Bank as near by as possible. On the Heineken square, were
the demonstration will start at 16.00h, there is a lot of
police ativity at 15.30 pm. Journalists are forced to leave the
square, people who are drinking beer on the pavement outside
bars are ordered to go inside. All bikes on the square have to
be removed. When people start gathering at 16.00h, there is
already a lot of police. However, it is still possible for
bikers to go into the direction of the Dutch Bank. 
When the head of the demonstration starts forming (directed
towards the bank) suddenly al lot of riot police is out of
their vans and prevents the demonstration to leave in the
direction it wanted to. Because the riot police is obviously
aiming at directing the demonstration of about 800 bikers awy
from the centre, the demonstration decides to cycle through the
narrow streets near the Heineken square. Because the police can
not easily follow the demonstration, the head of the demonstra-
tion can reach the bridge near the Dutch Bank. Panic within the
omnipresent police force: the head of the demonstration is only
150 meters away from the bank! The police decides to split the
demonstration. The back part of the demonstration can not join
the 500 people that are on the brifge. After shouting at the
bank and the policelines for 15 minutes the splitted groups
reunite again in another street. During the demonstration
itself nothing happens anymore, due to the route. The chosen
route made it almost impossible for the police to follow it
with vans. 
The demonstration at the prison is calm. In a creative way the
1200 demonstrators try to communicate with prisoners (by
shooting tennis balls on the inner court, digging a tunnel,
climb up the fences with ladders etc). However, the police
thinks it is too calm. Just before the planned end of the
demonstration the police radio announces the description of a
man they want to arrest. The man concerned is warned by others,
but he says that he has nothing to fear because he didn't do
anything wrong. When the demonstration is ended at 21.00h,
suddenly two arrest-units jump on the man and arrest him. A lot
of people run to the place where it happens, things are getting
out of hand, but just in time people realise that that was the
only purpose of the arrest. 

At 22.00h some hundreds of people gather at the Nieuwmarkt for
a demonstration. They want to walk to the hotels where the
ministers are staying, and cheer very loudly to thank them for
the splendid work they have been doing. It is clear that it
will be a demonstration with a very playful character. The
organisers begin the demonstration with offering a cake to
Chirac. After having delivered the cake at the entrance of the
hotel Chirac is staying, the group walks to the next hotel. The
jolly march is stopped by the riot police. The demonstration
walks back but is soon completely surrounded by police. After
30 minutes it becomes clear that there will be another mass-
arrest. Some people can escape using a boat that passes by. On
the other side of the water people are visibly disagreeing on
the second mass-arrest in two days. They also are about to be
surrounded. They can leave just in time, taking (again) some
flag-poles. Ten others are arrested on the other side of the
water while watching what is happening and transported together
with the others. 
In the meantime the demonstrators keep on cheering, but this
time for the police. They applaud for the riot police and civil
police. People start collecting money to contribute a little to
this money swallowing police operation. When the busses arrive
to take arrested people awy a lot of people show their tickets
in order to pay for the service. One journalist is also arre-
sted, her accreditation is seized. All 143 arrested people are
searched and handcuffed with plastic strips. Some of them are
told by the police that they have been arrested on .... section
140. They have to sit in the busses, that are not leaving for
one hour. When the busses start driving, they take a very
special route. After three hours (!) the busses arrive at the
prison: a route that can be done in 15 minutes. 
After having spend several hours on the cold floor, the people
who told their name are released. They get a fine of 125
guilders. The arrested people that refused to give their names
are released after 6 hours. 
After their release they cab read in the newspapers that they
were involved in riots and that they tried to enter a security
zone. The police says that they made this clear by warning the
demonstration and charging at it. None of those arrested nor
journalist have heard the warnings nor have they seen a police
charge. The spokesman of the police later says that the demon-
strators violated the restriction in zone 3. When a reporter
asks him how one can know that he or she is entering zone 3,
because there are no signs indicating this, the spokesman says
that zone 3 can easily be recognized because of the amount of
policemen one can see.

One of the arrested demonstrators is immediately arrested after
his release, because he unpacks his belongings from his search-
packet. The police officer involved feels provocated by that.
He decides to let the man go, but not after fining him with 40
guilders for disturbing public order.

Tuesday 17.06

Trial against the State in order to have the 343 arrested
people from Sundaynight released. 
The judge decides to realease three of the four persons that
are proceeding because there is no proof for their individual
contribution to the 'criminal organisation' Vrankrijk. The
judge declares that the verdict also applies for others in the
same position. The Ministry of Justice and the public prosecu-
tor have their own interpretation: in the verdict they read
that they don't have to release the others because the judge
said that mebership should be proved individually. With this
argumentation the arrested people are kept in detention till
after the summit. 
In the morning the authorities start deporting the foreigners
amongst the ones arrested. Some of them are delivered to the
national police (in Germany, Belgium), to avoid long lasting
extradiction procedures. Many of them have been deported
without getting back their personal belongings that were seized
when they were arrested. Passports and money were missing. Some
of those persons have again been arrested for not having
identity papers. It lasted untill Thursday before it was clear
that there were a lot of passports and other things at the
headquarters of police. Untill now the police refuses to hand
over the passports to the lawyers; the police says that people
can come and get them theirselves. 

In the afternoon there is a planned 'autonomous' demonstration
against a capitalist unified Europe, from the Dam square to the
theatre Carr,, where the Dutch prime-minister will have a press
conference to announce the results of the summit. 
The authorities decide to take a firm stand. The demonstration,
scheduled for two o'clock, is prohibited one hour before. Wit-
hout success: 2000 people gather at the Dam square, not only to
protest against the unification of Europe, but also against the
police brutalities during the summit. 
The demonstration is guarded by an overwhelming amount of
police. Uniformed ('normal') police is aware that the demon-
stration has a peaceful character and tries to keep away the
riot police, but they fail. At several points the riot police
has blocked the streets. When the demonstration wants to enter
a 19th century neighbourhood, far from the security zones, it
is stopped by the riot police. The uniformed police tries to
negociate with the riot police, because the prohibition of a
demonstartion so far away from the security zones is ridicu-
lous. Without result. The demonstration decides to return to
the Dam square where the flower-bed, that was created for the
official guests of the summit and that forms the european flag,
is complety destroyed by demonstrators.  

At night there are two smaller actions. 
At midnight there is a second 'cheer'demonstration. About 100
people go to the house of the mayor to thank him for the
creative way he showed his hospitality, by giving shelter to
hundreds of opponents to the EU. Policemen on horses try to run
over people, around the corner a police force is waiting that
outnumbers the demonstration. After one hour the demonstrators
go to bed.

Later that night, at around 4.30, the official press conference
starts in the heavily guarded theatre Carr,. Ten journalists
show their discontent with this Europe by unfolding banners and
shouting against the exclusion of environmental issues and
human rights in the Amsterdam treaty. Because they do this one
after another, it takes 15 minutes before the journalists are
arrested and taken away. The arrests are very rough. Funny is
the conversation during the action between prime minister Kok
abd minister of Foreign Affais van Mierlo. Kok (annoyed and
cynical): "Well, this has been very well organised again in
here". Van Mierlo (serious): "They could have been armed with
handgranates". Of course. Journalists have a reputation for


According to police figures, 609 arrests have been made. This
number does not include the arrested and deported Italians on
Saturday. It also does not include those arrests that were not
None of the ones arrested got a summons. The only ones who got
a fine are people that were arrested during the 'cheer'demon-
stration on Monday. The public prosecutor says he is still
considering individual charges. The lawyers are convinced that
no-one will be prosecuted. 
The international press is very surprised on the extreme safety
measures. Foreign journalists are angry with the fact that they
were kept away from the ministers and from the inhabitants of
Amsterdam. It is clear that this has been the most extreme
guarded summit in the history of the EC/EU. Even delegates of
officials have been complaining abouit the safety measures.

The use of section 140 in this way is without precedent in the
Netherlands and, as it seems, without precedent within the EU.
Maybe it is a fortaste of what groups of people can expect when
Europol advices in the future what to do with events that can
be a threat to public order (concerts, demonstrations, sport
events). It was used before against political groups, but
always after things happened and with a more specific definiti-
on of proof and charges. Nevertheless it has of course been
used against left groups that could not be prosecuted in other
ways. In over 90% of the cases in which it has been used it
never came to any conviction, and people were only prosecuted
under section 140 because it allows the police to use much more
criminal investigation techniques than in prosecutions under
other sections.
This has been the first time that is has been used to prevent
possible disturbing of public order and security. It has become
clear that this has been organised very well by police, Justice
and Home Affairs. The facts that there were no massive riots,
no violent demonstrations and that in fact nothing happened
that could possibly justify the move of Justice, confirm the
general idea that the arrests on Sunday night were planned
before the summit. Also the use of section 140 as legal ground
for the arrest must have been discussed within the justice
department. It is therefor not only a means to prevent people
from exercising their basic rights on demonstrations, but also
a means to extend the use of section 140 to groups within
society that the state is not very pleased with. The government
has been discussing the use of section 140 on groups of foot-
ball supporters before.

The council of Amsterdam has discussed what happened during the
summit, on Tuesday 24th of June. Only Green Left clearly
disapproves of the actions by the police. Most other parties
agree, because (as the chairman of the 'social democrats' said)
'it is better to have an investigation to why to police arre-
sted innocent people than to have an investigation to the
question why half the city was burned'. Also the mayor said
that it is good to arrest people that have done nothing wrong
if in this way one can prevent riots. The public prosecutor
stated that all arrests were legal because it was clear that
'we were not dealing with school children on their way to a
silent procession'. 
The Dutch parliament will discuss the police action on Thursday
26. We don't expect anything to come out. One member of the
social democrate party was very critical in an article in their
own weekly paper, but later said he was misquoted. 


The Autonoom Centrum, the Arrestment Group and Buro Jansen &
Janssen decided to publish a 'black'book on what happened. It
will be published at the end of June, and will be used to
demand an independent investigation into what happened. Untill
now 150 complaints have been registered. From the complaints
the following shoes in general:

- a lot of arrested demonstrants have been beaten after being
- people were not told why they were arrested;
- most people (and all foreigners) have been denied access to a
lawyer. They should have had one after 6 hours; some only saw
their lawyer when the decision to release them had already been
- female prisoners have all been sexually intimidated or
- people did not get water and food for almost 24 hours;
- people were detained in tents on the court yards of prison
and not given blankets in the first night;
- a big group had to wait for six hours in the busses before
they could enter the prison, in this period they were handcuf-
- most foreigners have been deported without giving them back
their personal belongings and documents;
- people who take physics were refused their medicine.

Meanwhile, the lawyers are preparing new proceedings to get
compensation for their clients. They expect that people will
get about 400 or 500 guilders for every day they were impriso-
ned, because their arrest was illegal. This could cost the
ministry about 200.000 guilders. Peanuts, compared to the 70
million it needed to organise the summit in Amsterdam. 

The total repressive way the Dutch government decided to treat
all demonstrations lead to the remark on national television by
a professor Penal Law at the University of Amsterdam that,
overviewing all that happened, he could only see one criminal
organisation. It is formed by the mayor, the public prosecutor
and the head of police, who have structuraly been working for
some months on organising the deliberate and illegal arrest of
demonstrators and passers-by who didn't do anything. 

Actions outside the Netherlands

Also in other EU-countries people reacted on the police vio-
lence in Amsterdam. In Copenhagen 17 people were arrested who,
according to thepolice, planned to attack theDutch consulate.
Dutch consulates were attacked in Stockholm,London, Brighton,
Milan, Gent and Rome. In Hamburg and Vienna the consulate was
occupied for some time.

In Denmark the issue has been raised in parliament by the-
Red-Green Alliance. They complain about the treatment of 29
Danes that were arrested in Amsterdam 12 of them were send back
by military plane, escorted by a Dutch fighterbomber the first
part of the way. Nodoubt just for training, but what a scene.
Also a lot of Danes were deported without their belongings.
They can not pick them up themselves because the police told
them they will not be allowed to enter the Netherlands for some
time. The Danish consul in Amsterdam was furious because she
was not allowed to visit the arrested Danes.  The Red Green
Alliance wants to know from the government if danish authori-
ties gave information to Europol, Interpol or dutch authori-
ties, what exactly the role of Europol has been in this case,
and what will happen to the fingerprints and photgraphs that
have been made.
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