The occupation of the P.C. Hoofthuis on the last day of the WOinActie week has drawn a lot of attention to the protest against the budget cuts affecting especially the Faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences. The occupiers’ goal was primarily to confront the Executive Board of the UvA with their concerns about the cuts’ consequences on the quality of education and to get answers to their more pressing questions about the culture of the University.
Despite the magnitude of such an occupation, most students had no idea of the events before they unfolded. Yet once the message was spread, evacuation by the police seemed inevitable. According to an open letter to the student body written by UvA Executive Board members Geert ten Dam, Karen Maex and Jan Lintsen, the eviction happened rather peacefully, “The mayor made it known that if the occupiers of the P.C. Hoofthuis left the building by 15:30 they would not be arrested and could proceed to the debating center in De Balie (Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen) to talk further. After the occupiers did not take her up on her offer, the mayor gave the order to evacuate.”
No further explanations were given on what happened, and particularly on how the eviction was carried out. One might have thought that this process of evacuating went smoothly and completely without the use of violence, whereas in fact, those details where just simply left out of the letter.
According to one student (who wishes to remain anonymous) who was at a friend’s apartment next to the P.C. Hoofthuis during the occupation, the actual scenes were different,
“At the beginning it was completely peaceful; the police were not intervening or anything. There were many riot vans parked around but then the police blocked the street and made the people who were standing in front of the building leave. They all had sticks and I did see someone getting hit. Then to make everyone go back the horses went into the crowd which as I saw it could be very dangerous because people were screaming and kind of panicking. The crowd was big; if someone fell they could’ve been trampled on very easily. Then to move the rest of the people sitting in front of the building, the police were dragging them across the floor, or carrying them by force (knowing that while this was happening riot vans were blocking the view from the people on the streets, so they couldn’t see).”
Videos capturing the scene corroborate such reports of heavy-handed police tactics.
While no student or protester was seriously harmed or injured, the occupation and the police’s evacuation in fact seemed more violent and aggressive than the Executive Board’s letter initially suggests.