Amsterdam streets renamed by activists in protest against TikTok queues
Residents in the popular 9 Straatjes neighborhood in Amsterdam woke up to a funny surprise last week, finding that the street signs for the Berenstraat and Runstraat were temporarily replaced with Schapenstraat (Sheep Street) and Rijstraat (Queue Street) signs. The street art protest is a reference to the recent surge of tourists who queue up for food that has gone viral on TitKok, often to the surprise and dismay of area residents.
Over the last few months, TikTok users have generated millions of views featuring several Amsterdam businesses selling french fries, fresh stroopwafels, cookies, and sandwiches. This viral attention has brought hundreds of people to the locations, with the extremely long queues clogging up the already busy city center.
The three men behind this action are friends from Amsterdam. They refer to themselves as “Online Comedian” Vic Cle, and "Onbekende grappenmaker" Olaf and Joes (Unknown Jokers).
“It is sad to see, day in and day out, crowds of people seeking the same superficial experience in a city that has so much to offer,” Vic Cle wrote on his Instagram to explain his action. “I don’t understand how people, without any embarrassment, willingly join such a queue for an Instagrammable bite to eat. Welcome to Theme Park Amsterdam.”
According to Olaf, who spoke with NL Times, it was a spontaneous idea. “We were biking along the 9 Straatjes and we found it so ridiculous that we had to do something about it,” he said. They had stickers printed, dragged ladders with them, and affixed the stickers over the street signs during the early morning hours on May 18. “It was very exciting, we were really trying to avoid drawing attention," he added.
The reactions were mixed, he explained. “Some people understood that it was a joke, others thought it was insulting to the business owners.” Olaf emphasized that the action was not intended to target the businesses that were attracting these crowds. “We don’t blame them, they are just doing their job, and good for them if they can increase their profits,” he stated.
Olaf insisted that the protest targeted the tourists’ herd-like behavior. “They’re like sheep,” he remarked. “It’s almost cynical how these people line up for hours for something like that.” He noted that the action was in fact an inside joke for Amsterdammers since those in the queue are unlikely to understand Dutch. “That’s the funniest part about it,” he said laughing.
Despite the light-hearted nature of the protest, they still wanted to convey a message. "It's a joke with a serious undertone," Olaf said. "Sure, you could write an op-ed in De Groene or Het Parool to complain about it, but we thought our action was a better way to draw attention to this issue."
Some of the signs have since been taken down, but a few were still hanging as of Friday. Whether the group plans more protest actions in the future is uncertain. Olaf stated they have nothing specific in mind, but they may take action the next time they observe something problematic in the city.
“We’ll come up with something,” he concluded.