Squatter Symbol
c. 1979 —

Squatter Symbol


The symbol is believed to have originated in the squatter’s movement in Amsterdam in late 1979.1 This was during a period when squatting — referred to as Kraken in Dutch — had become more prominent in the city because of a crisis in social housing and the prevalence of many empty buildings. However, the specific origins and meaning of the symbol are not always clear.


The symbol was initially associated with a campaign to prevent the eviction of a squatted complex, the Groote Keijser, located on one of the central canal rings in Amsterdam. An early version of the symbol can be found on an anti-eviction poster from 1979, however, this version has a straight diagonal line rather than a lightning bolt running the center.1


There are a number of different suggestions for the symbol’s origins, including that it is derived from American ‘hobo code' or from those used by European itinerant groups. In both groups, markings were often used to inform others of how to approach a particular location, for example, if a location was accessible, safe, or hostile.2


The visual integrity of the symbol's form has stayed quite conservative since the 1980s and it is relatively difficult to find examples of radically different versions or derivatives. Like the anarchist circle-a, perhaps because of the ease of replication, particularly with spray paint, there has not been much evolution of the symbol's form.

Squatter symbol variant
Hobo visual code
Squatter symbol variant