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NEWSLETTER NUMBER 3 FROM HET FORT VAN SJAKOO AND ASCII
DECEMBER 2001

Hello out there,

Before you is the third newsletter in which we keep all you interested people informed of all the developments concerning the more than NINEHUNDRED PERCENT RENT INCREASE that the Woningbedrijf Amsterdam (WBA) (Housing Corporation Amsterdam) is trying to force on us: from fl 580 to fl 5,140 per month. We, the Amsterdam alternative bookshop Het Fort van Sjakoo, and the internet workplace ASCII, who share our space, received at the end of July 2001 a letter from the WBA which stated that beginning Sept. 1, 2001 the above-mentioned rent increase will take effect. Two of our co-workers made a futile attempt at an exploratory discussion with the WBA. We then at the beginning of August wrote a provisional letter of objection to the WBA and then a definitive one to the media in September.

The Judge speaks well of what the politicians can't sell?

On the 22nd of August we received a letter notifying us that the WBA has started a case with the district judge. On September 10th we received a subpoena for a judicial procedure against het Fort for the first pro forma sitting on October 10th. Het Fort had already decided to not enter a legal defence since this procedure could only give the WBA's proposed rent increase a judicial affirmation; according to the rental laws it is allowed to raise the rent of commercial spaces to market value. The judge ignored our request for a direct verdict without motivation and gave on November 7th an in-between verdict ordering that the BHAC (a Commercial rent advice commission) to be involved. The BHAC consists of three real-estate agents appointed by the chamber of commerce, and they'll hand in a report in which a "legitimate" sum or rent will be determined. The plaintive, the WBA, most initially pay the cost of this, around fl 6,100, but eventually the loser-in principal-in addition to the court costs must also pay this cost. The judge pressured/forced us into this sort of trial when we already knew we couldn't benefit from it. On December 12th is the next court sitting. The WBA asked the judge to make sure that the BHAC have their report ready by this date. (Normally it takes a few months) If the judge can/will agree to their request we must wait to see. Right before the first court date on the 10th of October we received from the WBA an offer of an alternative location. An offer that we only could refuse since the price per square meter for this alternative space wasn't 900, but 815% higher than what we pay now, and it was only a third of the space that we now have. Besides we still find that we have at least a 900% right to the space we now have.

A Social Call to the WBA

The first contact that we had again with the WBA was on the 8th of November, during the occupation of their branch office for the inner city by a group of Fort and ASCII sympathizers. A dozen people entrenched themselves at a quarter to seven in the morning in the office on the Muntendamstraat and locked the doors. Banners and a group of about 40 sympathizers on the sidewalk made it very clear to everyone what all the fuss was about: "WBA=Winst Boven Alles" (Profit Above Everything), "Sociale Huren voor Sociale Projecten" (Social Rent for Social Projects), "Geen Huurverhoging voor het Fort van Sjakoo" (No Rent Increase for het Fort van Sjakoo). Television crews were there and regional office manager Eric van Kaam right away stepped in front of the cameras making the announcement that he had a concept letter ready which proposed a phased in over time rent increase and at the same time offered us two more alternative locations. One of us replied to him that he'd better send it over to het Fort so that we can discuss their offer. The letter, many weeks later, hasn't yet come. Van Kaam also came to us with the ridiculous demand that we use our influence to end the occupation of his office. We admire and feel strengthened by the people who were prepared to go into action for het Fort and for other projects such as ours. The occupiers decided to remain inside. When the occupation had already been going on for a few hours all of a sudden the big cheese, head honcho from the WBA, Lex Pouw arrived. He refused, just like a few months earlier, to speak with us. He walked around like an arrogant little general to see what was going on. One of our sympathizers thought that that was too much. He bicycled to the closest bakery and bought a tray of whipped cream and threw it in Pouw's face. The pie thrower got a few hundred meters away before he was caught by two police vans and arrested and then released the same afternoon. It appears that Pouw filed a complaint. If a legal precedent is started because of this pie throwing incident we'll have to wait to see. Eventually the keystone cops showed up and the occupiers were out of the building by ten thirty. There were 12 people arrested and they were held a day and a half at the police station. They received a summons to be in court on January 25 th, 2001 charged with breaking the peace. We call on everyone to give these people their support. We will let you know soon when and where the trial will take place.

The Wheels of City Hall Move Sluggishly

In the meantime we've collaborated closely with the local Latin American Centre (who've been confronted with the same problem, a proposed rent increase from the municipal Grondbedrijf), and the pressure group De Vrije Ruimte (The Free Space) to get the city council behind us. A group of diverse council members have come on board to tackle this problem of exorbitant rent increases for community and non-profit organizations. There seems to be a majority in the city council who think that for social and community organizations a moratorium on the rent increases must be started. Alderman Dales has received an assignment from B&W to write a note about this problem. That should take a while and will probably not be delivered in time as a solution for us. Groen-Links (Green- Left), Amsterdam Anders-De Groenen (A Different Amsterdam-The Greens) and Lijst Boerlage have introduced a motion and questions to the board "where landlords, among which the WBA will be urged to postpone the aforementioned rent increase, depending on the result from the council's debate about the promised note". They've also in favour of the Latin American Centre introduced the same sort of motion. Both cases shall be on December 13th in the city council handled. The Stedelijk Woningdienst (The Municipal Housing Service) has also in the meantime been busy with this subject. The director of this service attempted to speak with director Pouw from the WBA about a moratorium on the rent increase facing het Fort. Pouw refused. According to a flabbergasted official from the Stedelijke Woningdienst it still hasn't taken place.

Meanwhile a public debate is being organized for the end of January 2002 about the problem of rent increases for social and community active organizations. It is the intention of this debate that representatives from pressure groups, victims, house-building associations, civil servants and politicians take part. The organization of it will take place in close collaboration with the Vrije Ruimte.

Disinformation from the WBA

Meanwhile it looks like the WBA has become conscious that they must do something about their negative image. It wasn't long ago that the WBA was named "the worst landlord" from all the housing corporations; the problems around het Fort threaten to continue this bad reputation. The bureaucrats from the WBA have nothing better to do than to here and there distort the facts a bit. Regional manager van Kaam claimed on November 16th during the broadcast of the tv program 'De Achtste Dag' (The Eighth Day) that he can't get into contact with any of us and that he again and again had to deal with different people. Van Kaam still hasn't once tried to get personally in contact with any of us. Two of our people right at the beginning of this conflict had a fruitless conversation with two of his subordinates, who didn't offer any opening for further negotiations. After that there has been extensive written contact with van Kaam with our collective, as well as with our board members and our lawyer. Unfortunately none of this has yet led to a solution.

WBA director Lex Pouw, who for months had nothing to do with this business, spoke twice about it after getting a juicy pie in the face. Once on November 9 th on the local broadcaster AT5's TV program 'Duivels' (appropriately called Devils), and a day later interviewed in the dutch newspaper het Parool. In both cases Pouw made a clean breast of it: he had barely any knowledge of the files dealing with the developments of the last four months; he appeared, just like his regional manager, to have no idea of what Fort van Sjakoo is about. "A commercial company who find themselves pathetic, I can not consider as non-commercial." But we find ourselves not pathetic. We resist against the market price thinking from the bureaucrats from the municipality as well as from her privatized housing corporations. Pouw alleged in het Parool that we were responsible for the exterior redecorating which took place at the end of August at the inner city regional office. Those who are in the first place responsible for this naturally the WBA themselves with their exorbitant speculative rent increase. Such things surely rouse indignation in people. We therefore found it to be a sympathetic action and not out of proportion. Pouw also thinks that we must distance ourselves from "the recent actions and threats. Presently there have been placed names and photos of WBA personal on the internet." We will no way distance ourselves. We find it normal/acceptable and it is our natural right that people who run into social problems that they can't solve via the legal means, go into action and commit civil disobedience. That's called social struggle. Social struggle is used to cause administrative change to happen in a conflict that's really stuck aground. Aground manly because of the stiff attitude the WBA has taken in dealing with a very large civic (already realized by city council) problem. Actions are in this case necessary and legitimate means to an end. Anyway, the just-pied Lex Pouw is the only WBA employee who's photo was put on our website. (once with and once without whipped cream)

To conclude his interview in het Parool, Pouw claimed that we declined for no good reason their (until now their only) offer of an alternative location. That's curious, because there is a letter from our lawyer to the WBA's lawyer (from October 10 th) in which we turned down their offer with our reasons why.

The WBA in their yearly report boast of their social endeavors, claiming continuously that the rent increase they've tried to force on us is necessary to keep housing in the social sector affordable. In other words, in order to alleviate the severe problems in this sector het Fort must be sacrificed. The bureaucrats find this an acceptable solution for their financial problems. Just like they find acceptable, under the same pretext, as many houses/flats in the old districts with cheap (=not market price) rent get sold or renovated and become for most people non-affordable (=market price) housing. In our appeal we've made it very clear that het Fort van Sjakoo owes its existence to the inextricable connection with the social movements that are represented in the publications in our shop. Publications that, however conflicting and dissimilar, show another way to look at the world. And we've now, after years of quiet in which we were only a distribution point, a service hatch for the movement, thanks to the greed of the WBA we are again an 'activist' bookshop. And it will remain so for some time now.

Well that's it for this newsletter. Those who would like to know more about the correspondence, the written protest letters, the actions which have taken place, articles from the 'regular' media, etc. can look at our website: (which unfortunately is mainly in dutch) http://www.xs4all.nl/~sjakoo/protest/ or come in or call us.

If you have any tips or suggestions for us please contact us and please send the WBA a protest letter, if you haven't already done so, and let them know what you think about their disgusting intentions. Please also send us a copy by mail, fax or e-mail. We'll report again soon to all of you. If you want to be kept up to date on what's going on please join our e-mailing list by surfing to: https://squat.net/mailman/listinfo/sjakoo-announce

So long again from the front,

International Bookshop Het Fort van Sjakoo
Jodenbreestraat 24
1011NK Amsterdam
Telefoon: 020-6258979
Fax: 020-6203570
e-mail: sjakoo@xs4all.nl
http://www.xs4all.nl/~sjakoo

ASCII
Jodenbreestraat 24 sous
1011NK Amsterdam
e-mail: ascii@squat.net
http://www.squat.net/ascii

Het adres van onze verhuurder:
Woningbedrijf Amsterdam
Muntendamstraat 1
1091DR Amsterdam
Fax 020-6630829
e-mail: binnenstad@woningbedrijf-amsterdam.nl