The eviction of Autonoom Centrum in The Hague is getting closer. The AC lost a long legal procedure in which the judge declared that AC can be evicted beginning January 30th. After the verdict, AC went into discussions with the owner of the building in order to reach an agreement, but the conversation went nowhere. It looks like AC will be evicted at the end of this month.
Last summer, we received a letter stating that we have to vacate the premises by 30 January 2016. This letter did not come from the building’s owner, but from the renter. This requires further explanation; the building which AC occupies is property of Pubstone BV, a company that owns many bars. Pubstone BV rents the building to InBev, the largest beer brewer in the world, worth billions. Inbev subsequently rented the building to a pub operator. Even when the building was abandoned and when it was squatted in 2010, InBev continued renting the building. InBev terminated its rental agreement and must in their own words hand the building over empty to Pubstone. Afterwords, InBev’s lawyers sent us a letter saying that we have to vacate the premises by January 30 2016. We did not agree to these terms and filed a lawsuit. The judge ruled in favor of InBev, despite the fact that the building would again stand vacant after the eviction and the verdict was that AC can be evicted from 30 Janaury 2016.
Pubstone, the owner approached us to discuss a possible agreement, but those conversations were fruitless. Pubstone informed us that we could be able to stay in the building through an anti-squatting company, but we could not agree to this on ideological grounds. We made another offer, but this was rejected on January 6th, 2016. Pubstone insisted on only doing business through an anti-squatting company, but we also found out that anti-squatting companies do not do business with squatters anyway. Fine, because we also refuse to do business with them. Anti-squatting companies make it possible to exploit vacancy resulting from economic speculation, and that is fundamentally against our anti-capitalist ideals. It is a fact that eviction will follow shortly.
What will happen to the building after InBev hands it over empty remains completely uncertain. Within the five year period that it has been squatted, they have tried to rent it to four people, but nobody wanted it. Considering the current financial situation, the condition of the building, and the situation and composition of the neighborhood where the building is located, the possibility of being able to open a regular bar in this location can be ruled out.
The Autonoom Centrum is an important space for the anti-capitalist movement. It is a place where people can get informed and organized. Outside of this fact, AC provides space for many initiatives that couldn’t take place anywhere else. The Autonoom Centrum has for around 5 years given space to a vegan folk kitchen, the alternative bookstore Opstand, squatting consultations, as well as film and information nights. Bands and also students from the nearby conservatory have a place to organize performances without having to worry about making a profit. All of these activities happen on a non-profit basis and are organized by volunteers.
More and more places where radical politics and culture are organized on a grassroots level are being threatened with eviction. First social center De Vloek in the harbor of Scheveningen which was evicted last September, and now Autonoom Centrum. These spaces are essential for working toward a world without exploitation, racism and sexism. We are of the opinion that these spaces should be defended. Support Autonoom Centrum and keep an eye on our website for the latest news.
Autonoom Centrum will stay! Willem van Outhoornstraat 17 is risk capital!