Amsterdam Riots: Deja Vu All Over Again

Old Nov 27th, 2007, 07:15 AM
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Amsterdam Riots: Deja Vu All Over Again

Pictures in morning fish wrap showed 1,000 or so high school students on Amsterdam's Museumplein being charged by horse-born cops and shot at with water cannons - some kind of flap over extending the school year 26 hours.

While no doubt this is a very localized thing and ABSOLUTELY no worry to tourists i'm sure it did for me bring back fond memories of times in Amsterdam from my first trip there, in 1969, and during lengthy periods of time i spent there in the early 70s when such riots, actually a lot more violent and extensive than this one i'm sure were almost a daily event

And as a young college student fresh from such riots practically nightly on my home campus, a hotbed of 60s radicalism, i felt right at home.

But it was the Amsterdam riots that really fired up my anti-Viet Nam war stance - radicalized it.

I remember those riots as occuring right in the heart of town - along canals between Dam Square and the train station and along other canals in the heart of town (hard not to be buy a canal in such roving riots)

I remember especially the shiel-wielding police who seemed rather steeled and the equestrian charges and especially the water cannon where quite a few rioters were simply propelled into the canals.

Later riots were centered around the many squats that sprouted up in the 60s and especially the 70s when abandoned buildings owned by speculators i guess were squatted by young folks who lived in a communal style - gaily decorated their squats' front with protest flags, etc.

Apparently at first due to a severe shortage of housing in Amsterdam, later alleviated by building huge tower blocks in places like Biljermeer (sp?) the government i think permitted squats in unoccupied buildings

But getting the squattors out when the landlord wanted to reclaim the building inevitably meant a huge riot with thousands of squat supporters trying to defend the squat

I frequented a group of squattors in Vondel Kirk - church on the edge of Vondel Park - the interior had been stripped of its flooring and everything so it was a dirt floor - no heating, no water but about 50 young folk lived there for a few years. I remember climing the rickety ladder up the tall church tower. And the young folk here none wanted to go live in the tower blocks of Biljermeer.

So though while i do not celebrate that things come to a riot stage seeing this photo of Amsterdam students facing police charges and water cannons did indeed bring back what for me were heady exciting times of my long gone youth.
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 08:38 AM
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I'm remembering my own "happy" memories of being charged by the Viet Cong at about the same time.
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 08:54 AM
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protests no doubt help prevent more American kids from being charged by the Viet Cong

i could not have gone to the military if i wanted due to bona fide medical condition - heart murmur and high BP - i had two physicals as my draft number in lottery was low

That said protestors were the American GIs best friend and in today's world one can't help but think if there were a draft today the Iraq war may have ended by now and W would have never been reelected.
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 09:05 AM
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I hate to contribute to a politically oriented post, but...

"one can't help but think if there were a draft today the Iraq war may have ended by now and W would have never been reelected."

You got that right!
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 09:46 AM
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Many schoolkids were just happy to be out of class without a clue as to what they were protesting against. The images of policemen beating high school kids with batons are highly unusual for this country. Sad that some of these kids were shouting very offensive antisemitic slogans which had absolutely nothing to do with the issue they were demonstrating for; that would prove the point that they would need to spend more hours at school, rather than less.
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 09:53 AM
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<<being charged by horse-born cops>>

How interesting. Were they centaurs?
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 02:03 PM
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"protests no doubt help prevent more American kids from being charged by the Viet Cong"

PalenQ; There is a flipside to that argument and I'm not taking sides just playing the unpopular 'Devil's Advocate' .

Perhaps some Vietnam War history buff might know the exact details, I'm just relying on memory.

An NVA Colonel(?) who was also I'm certain at the 'Paris Peace Talks' mentioned (interview/book/article?) years later that.

After the North's failed 'Tet Offensive' (1968) they were highly considering a ceasefire or peace treaty (like North & South Korea).

But the rising anti-war protests in the US gave them the incentive to keep fighting knowing if they could hold-off a few short years they would win. And they did.

So *if* true it's possible the war could have ended in a stalemate in probably 1969.
And the anti-war protesters would have actually prolonged it 3yrs or more.
Regards, Walter
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 02:23 PM
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I was in Amsterdam slightly later than you, PalenQ, broke and living with a friend. The squats were still full, and the demonstrations still going on.

One of my friends went to all of the demonstrations. "Great way to meet chicks", he said. He had made a universal sign that allowed him to mingle with every crowd. It said, "SHAME!"

There were a great number of American kids of draft age among the street people in Amsterdam at that time. Many of them hung out in Dam Square, panhandling. They would greet passers by with a, "Got a spare Guilder, Buddy?"

Got really tiresome, after awhile. At every party I went to, some Dutch wag would hear I was an American, and come over to me and ceremoniously hand me a Guilder, and a smirk.

My point is that most of the American protesters of the Viet Nam conflict, that I met, had no political agenda. They were just bums, for whom I only felt shame.

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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 07:29 AM
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Paradise Lost:

Yes it's hard to figure out what effect the protestors had - but whether or not commies were considering a peace agreement really is hard to tell i think

perhaps - but if you extend it to the war in Iraq the lack of a Viet Nam style protest where campuses were exploding nightly and Nixon was a virtual prisoner in the White House - means perhaps that the Iraq war goes on and on and on - if we had a draft maybe the protests would have been so huge the war would have ended by now

Not only young folk would be up in arms but many parents as well.

This is why i believe that if a war is justified then all of society should participate on the ground fighting it - not just the more poor and less educated segment of society.
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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 08:38 AM
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Good catch, Christina!
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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 10:05 AM
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I was there on 11/26 and yesterday morning, and it was absolutely no big deal, except that there was a nearby car fire that was possibly related and attracting a lot of attention. Of course, I might have missed most of the action, but both times I walked by it was just a bunch of high school kids chanting and occasionally running from one end of the square to the other.The cops were all smiling.
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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 10:23 AM
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ParadiseLost--not an NVA colonel.

It was the NVA's General Giap. American media reports (especially those of Walter Cronkite) presenting the Viet Cong/North Vietnamese failed Tet Offensive as successful rather than the demoralizing defeat it really was, combined with reports (often inflated) of demonstrations and protests in the USA, that encouraged North Vietnam to continue the war. At least that is what General Giap says.
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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 10:28 AM
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The schol kids are all off to Den Haag tomorrow for a slighlty more organised protest I believe.

Off topic.
St Cirq ho was your trip? Did you manage the change in weather Ok? And how was Kenya?
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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 11:22 AM
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Cristina! Your humour!
I laughed until the tears came.
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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 11:27 AM
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I'm still crying GOC
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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 01:18 PM
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Jake1; Thanks, I now see I was combining a General and a Colonel's quotes to a single individual .

"Yes it's hard to figure out what effect the protestors had - but whether or not commies were considering a peace agreement really is hard to tell i think"

PalenQ; These two very high ranking NVA officers have an opinion on both counts. Regards, Walter

GEN. GIAP later wrote in his book, that the news media reporting and the demonstrations in America surprised them. Instead of seeking a conditional surrender, they would now hold out because America's resolve was weakening and the possibility of victory could be theirs.

BUI TIN; A former Colonel in the North Vietnamese army.
[The Wall Street Journal, 3 August 1995].

 Bui Tin, who served on the General Staff of North Vietnam's army, received the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975.
He later became editor of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of Vietnam. He now lives in Paris, where he immigrated after becoming disillusioned with the fruits of Vietnamese communism.

Q: Was the American antiwar movement important to Hanoi's victory?

A:  It was essential to our strategy.
Support of the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable.
Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement. 

Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence  that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses.

We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war and that she would struggle along with us.

Q: Did the Politburo pay attention to these visits?
A: Keenly.

Q: Why?
A: Those people represented the conscience of America. The conscience of America was part of its war-making capability, and we were turning that power in our favor.
America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a will to win.
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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 01:24 PM
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If Viet war was one worth fighting and in Iraq too - like in many other wars you would not have protestors

It seems probable that protestors prolonged the war from your references

yet these wars mobilized protestors because the people did not support them or at least a sizeable segment did not

Too bad that W is using that same arguement now - that to protest the war is to aid the 'terrorists' where the protestors - really a silent majority of some 65% - feel so because it's not a war they feel is just in continuing.

A conundrum whether to protest i guess but you can also blame prolongation of each war on the Commander in Chief IMO
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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 02:28 PM
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Hi, hetismij:

My trip was...well...life-altering on so many levels. We ended up staying in Nairobi for two extra days because we just couldn't bear to leave the place, and we had some work we wanted to finish up and deliver before we departed, so that cut our 4 days in Amsterdam down to one and a half, but all in all it was the most magical journey I've ever taken. The two short days (one night) we had at the Karen Blixen Lodge in the Mara were possibly the two most extraordinary days of my life....so far.

The fleece jacket and waterproof shell worked out perfectly, with layers underneath for Amsterdam, which was cold and windy and wet off and on. In Kenya the weather changed radically four or five times a day, but I was well prepared for everything.

It was just wonderful to see Amsterdam again after more than two decades. I hope to schedule more time there on my way to and from Africa on future trips.

I've had to hit the ground running since landing last night, but one of these days I'll post a trip report.
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 12:24 AM
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Ah another heart lost to Africa by the sound of it! And two extra days in Nairobi sounds a far better deal than 4 in Amsterdam to me!
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 01:11 AM
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"If Viet war was one worth fighting and in Iraq too - like in many other wars you would not have protestors"

I don't think this is true at all. Not saying that either war was/is justified, but there is a segment of the population that will protest everything and anything. In the US, university students are particularly guilty of this. I mean, these protesters in Amsterdam aren't exactly trying to save the world.

Or consider those stupid bumper stickers you see in the US: "War is NEVER the Answer." Surely a more meaningless and ahistorical platitude has never been put to paper. It surely doesn't indicate a well-thought analysis of the right or wrongs of a particular conflict.

And how hard is it to get 5k people to show up at a protest? Heck, as someone pointed out, they can be as much of a social outlet as anything. In a place like San Francisco (or any university town), I could probably get 5k people to protest that Big Bird, as the only remaining Big Bird, needs immediate protection as an endangered species.
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