Utrecht’s Occupation

Wave the Flag
On 15 October 2011, people of all ages began gathering at the Domplein in Utrecht. The crisp, autumn morning saw signs being made, posters being hung, and people coming together to voice a frustration with the form of capitalism that has taken over in many countries. On this day, in cities and countries around the world, people joined together to show a solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not everyone there was an anarchist, nor were they all dirty hippies or a lazy bums (or any other needlessly pejorative terms). They were young and old, dreadlocked and neatly shorn, obvious protesters and people who look like someone’s granny. Many had different issues that they found particularly frustrating, but the point was that they were all feeling a bit fed up with how the super wealthy and the corporations seemed to be getting the better end of any and all deals.

Since that day many of the Occupy protests around the world, including the original Occupy Wall Street, have been closed down, sometimes with unnecessary violence and brutality. Other protests have popped up, often with mixed results, and frequently with seemingly unnecessary arrests. I recommend checking out some of the posts at nylondaze for some great photos and discussion of recent protests in New York.

While other groups have been shut down, often ages ago, the Occupy Utrecht group, which took over a small section of the square behind the old Stadhuis (city hall) in the center of town, has hung on through (lots of) rain, snow, and changing seasons. They’re still there, and while relatively small, they’ve been clean and organized and seemingly willing to talk every time I’ve gone past their camp.

However, they’re finally being asked to move. Well, at least for a day. You see, April 30 is a national holiday, Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day). Mayor Wolfsen has decided that for the health of the protesters and others, the camp needs to go. The protesters obviously didn’t agree, especially when it was stated that they couldn’t return after the holiday. However, a judge has agreed with them and stated that they can return on 1 May. I’m not sure if they are going to move, but if they do, I suspect they will return, especially when you consider the history of 1 May, also known as May Day and International Worker’s Day. This is a day traditionally when labour and left-wing movements often take to the streets for demonstrations and marches throughout the world.

I’m not sure if I’ll be passing by the Stadhuisplein on Monday, although if the weather isn’t pouring down in buckets as it’s doing now, I may be tempted to go to see if they complied for the one day. I did stop by yesterday, though, and got a few photos. As you can see, it’s not a large, unruly camp. It’s actually condensed and become more organized over the months. With the current austerity measures vote and the recent collapse of the government, I don’t think it’s a bad group to keep around as a reminder that lower and middle classes shouldn’t be the only ones to bear the brunt of economic struggle.

Occupy Utrecht

Occupy Utrecht

Occupy Wall Street Via Utrecht

Meditation
Yesterday, across multiple countries, people gathered to “occupy” their cities in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protest that has been taking place in New York. Utrecht was the starting point for the occupy events in the Netherlands. It was a crisp, bright, autumn day and the Domplein was particularly beautiful with the sunlight filtering through the trees.

Occupy Utrecht

When we got back from the event, I figured that I’d try posting some of my photos to actual news sources, if possible, since it is part of a global event. I had limited time due to other plans for the day (more about that in another post), so I only had time to send them to one news site. I ended up going with CNN and their iReports, since I figured there might be more interest for the topic on CNN, a primarily US-based news service. You can see the report on the CNN site, including seven photos that I thought best represented the event. You may notice that there’s a CNN iReport badge on the corner of my photos, as well as the producer comment. That means that my posting was actually vetted by CNN and considered somewhat official! I had an e-mail from the producer waiting for me when I got home last evening. It was kind of exciting to have it included!

Occupy Our Minds

In the small-world category, it turned out I had seen the gentleman above the day before as I was going to the grocery store. I noticed his distinctive sweater that day, so it made him easy to recognize yesterday. He was there leading people in meditation, with his own sign that recommended that people “occupy” their minds through meditation.

It really was a nice event: peaceful, thoughtful, and supportive.

Occupy Utrecht

Beer and Protests

Ledig Erf
The forecast for Saturday is sunshine and decent temperatures, so I think we might head out to a couple of different things going on this weekend in town. It will be a bit of social consciousness and a bit of social libation.

First off, in support of Occupy Wall Street, there’s going to be an Occupy Utrecht event Saturday at the Domplein. With a general aim to global change, there will be speakers and open debate, beginning at noon. At 13:30, the event will move on to either Amsterdam or Den Haag. If you’re curious, there’s more info and other links at this site.

When the event moves on, I think we’ll move on to Ledig Erf to check out the annual Bockbier Festival. I think there will be around 65 bock beers available for tasting, including De Leckere’s Rode Toren. I’ve become quite the fan of De Leckere, the local Utrecht brewery with many beers named for historically important people and places here in Utrecht. The festival itself is free; the beers cost money, of course. It could be a fun way to spend some of the afternoon, especially since there will also be live music.