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anarchokrant14 mei 2024

Neither peaceful, nor de-escalating

Author: | GEPLAATST DOOR: De Anarchokrant | Bron:

We are a group of activists who were involved in the occupation of the Maagdenhuis in 2015. We see that the current pro-Palestine protests at UvA have grown very rapidly, but that both institutions and some of the protesters are openly calling for de-escalation. Behind this dynamic, we recognise a number of repressive tactics that caused great damage during the occupation of the Maagdenhuis. This is something we want to draw attention to.

Divide and Conquer

As soon as the first signs of more disruptive forms of activism appear, everyone rushes to create a distinction between “peaceful protesters” and “non-peaceful protesters”. We saw this in 2015 and we are seeing it again now. This tactic attempts to criminalise disruptive forms of protest while pitting activists against each other.

Nederlandse versie

The “peaceful protester’ is put on a pedestal. This protester is a well-meaning student! His right to protest must be protected! The “non-peaceful protester” is dismissed as an anarchist, antifascist, non-student, or non-Dutch. For instance, the charges against the Maagdenhuis occupiers mentioned the presence of “probably Moroccan boys’, who supposedly could not be students because of their background. The Other does not stand for anything at all, he just wants to riot! He ruins it for the well-meaning students!

The “peaceful protesters” are put under as much pressure as possible. University administrators try to build relations with them, asking them if they can keep an eye on things and if they would be able to “de-escalate”. During the occupation of the Maagdenhuis, for example, the Executive Board secretly kept in contact with certain activists. The police (neighbourhood police, the Peace Unit) also actively seek contact in a similar way. For example, the Amsterdam chief of police describes how his Peace Unit has tried to build relations with students during the recent pro-Palestine actions in an attempt to “explain what is and is not possible” and to de-escalate. Politicians, through various forms of media, continuously call on the protesters to “stay peaceful”, and journalists and institutions repeatedly ask the “peaceful protesters” to openly distance themselves various people and issues.

Meanwhile, “non-peaceful protesters” are isolated and incapacitated as much as possible. Both by stigmatisation and by more open repression in the form of arrests, immigrant detention (Maagdenhuis), demanding severe sentences (recent evictions), high penalty payments (Bungehuis), firing, and physical violence.

This strategy ensures that the pressure on all activists grows. Various institutions hope this will lead to tension, causing people to turn on each other and that “peaceful protesters” will partly take over the job of the police by passing on information and insisting on de-escalation.

Raising Barriers

After stressing in every possible way that the protests must be absolutely “peaceful”, the definition of peaceful becomes increasingly narrowed. For example, the response to occupations since 2015 has become increasingly swift and violent. Individual activists involved in the occupation of the Maagdenhuis were at one point not even welcome near open days. This too is happening again now. On the 12th of May, UvA sent an email stating that peaceful demonstrations are allowed, but expressly forbidding setting up an encampment, building barricades or wearing face-covering clothing. In other words: all of this is not (or no longer) peaceful. The list goes on. We have seen how time and again attempts are made to criminalise certain slogans. We have seen seated protesters admonishing their standing fellow activists to sit down “because we are peaceful”.

As attempts are made thusly to push more and more forms of activism into the realm of the indecent, more security is hired, more police are deployed, and more regulations are drawn up. Right now, universities are working on a new protocol for protests. The leeway for people who want to operate by the rules is increasingly reduced, while those who still want to act outside that narrow margin are more quickly confronted with state violence.

If covert repression gains a foothold and calls for de-escalation grow louder, the pressure on institutions to change will diminish. Additionally, divisions will deepen, and certain groups will become increasingly vulnerable to open repression. Therefore, we urge everyone to be aware of these repressive tactics and to resist them. This is not the time to de-escalate, but to escalate further. We do not strive for “peacefulness” and business as usual. We strive for a free Palestine, from the river to the sea.

(The orginal text in Dutch, “Noch vreedzaam, noch deëscalerend”, appeared on Verrep’s sustack on May 13th. Translation by Toros Dagman.)

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