New national housing protest planned in Amsterdam has city center businesses worried
The organizers behind a housing protest in Amsterdam this weekend are still waiting to hear from the municipality whether they’ll be allowed to march through Kalverstraat as part of their demonstration. Entrepreneurs on the busy street are against the idea, raising concerns about the safety of children and the elderly in the narrow and crowded street.
The housing protest is scheduled for Sunday on Dam Square at 1 p.m. Organizers planned a “march against vacancy,” leading protestors through the Kalverstraat shopping street en route to City Hall in the Stopera, but said on Wednesday that so far the city has refused to allow the march.
Roughly 18,000 people showed up at the housing protest held in Amsterdam in September 2021. “Plans are nice, but nothing has changed in the living situation of millions of Dutch people” since then, the organizers stated. “The number of homeless people has not decreased, the availability of social housing has not increased, and millions of tenants still live every day with the consequences of temporary contracts in the private sector that are far too expensive.”
The activists said housing policies mainly serve to benefit property owners and have structurally failed to alleviate housing shortages in a way that is fair for the greater public. The march down the Kalverstraat is meant to draw attention to this, where there have long been vacant spaces, which advocates say could be turned into housing.
“The busy Kalverstraat is a symbolic location because there, in the middle of the city center, thousands of square meters of habitable space stand empty for the profits of big international retail companies and real estate investors,” said Melissa Koutouzis, one of the organizers, in an interview with ANP.
Several entrepreneurs in Kalverstraat are against the idea of thousands of protesters marching down the busy shopping street. The street is “much too narrow and busy for that,” they said in a letter to mayor Femke Halsema, Parool reported. “We can’t imagine elderly people or children accidentally ending up in this protest violence.”
During the previous housing protest in the capital in September 2021, the police arrested several dozen people for trying to break into a building to squat it. Others were arrested at similar protests in Leiden and Rotterdam in the months that followed.
The letter writers are worried about more than this week’s protest. According to them, Kalverstraat businesses “are often inconvenienced by demonstrations,” which they feel are happening more and more. The large number of demonstrations could lead to “a deterioration of the business climate in the Amsterdam city center,” they said. “We are seriously concerned about this.
The protest group said Halsema’s delay in approving the march is incomprehensible. They say they have “have repeatedly stated the importance of this location and can ensure a safe and peaceful process. The organization is determined to allow the march to go ahead according to plan.”
They called on the mayor to approve the march down the Kalverstraat, saying she is “obliged to make every effort to facilitate” it, and not to restrict their right to demonstrate peacefully.
A spokesperson for the municipality told Parool that “in principle,” it facilitates “all registered demonstrations,” including this one. “We will always look at the organization's plans and assess whether the demonstration can proceed safely. We are discussing that point with the organization,” said a spokesperson for the mayor. “In the course of the week, it will become clear what the organization wants and what the mayor, prosecutor, and police can allow.”