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Provo was a Dutch counterculture movement in the mid-1960s that focused on provoking violent responses from authorities using non-violent bait. It was preceded by the nozem movement and followed by the hippie movement. Provo was founded, on 25 May 1965, by Robert Jasper Grootveld, an anti-smoking activist, and the anarchists Roel van Duijn and Rob Stolk. The term was used for the movement as a whole and for individual members. Provo was officially disbanded on 13 May 1967.
12 July 1965 the first Provo magazine was published. It contained the "Provo manifesto", written by Roel van Duijn, and reprinted recipes for bombs from a nineteenth-century anarchist pamphlet. The magazine was eventually confiscated.
In Provo #12, the magazine was described as
a monthly sheet for anarchists, provos, beatniks, pleiners, scissors-grinders, jailbirds, simple simon stylites, magicians, pacifists, potato-chip chaps, charlatans, philosophers, germ-carriers, grand masters of the queen's horse, happeners, vegetarians, syndicalists, santy clauses, kindergarten teachers, agitators, pyromaniacs, assistant assistants, scratchers and syphilitics, secret police, and other riff-raff. Provo has something against capitalism, communism, fascism, bureaucracy, militarism, professionalism, dogmatism, and authoritarianism. Provo has to choose between desperation, resistance and submissive extinction. Provo calls for resistance wherever possible. Provo realises that it will lose in the end, but it cannot pass up the chance to make at least one more heartfelt attempt to provoke society. Provo regards anarchy as the inspirational source of resistance. Provo wants to revive anarchy and teach it to the young. Provo is an image.
The political wing of the Provos won a seat on the city council of Amsterdam, and developed the "White Plans". The most famous of those is the "White Bicycle Plan", which aimed to improve Amsterdam's transport problem. Generally the plans sought to address social problems and make Amsterdam more liveable.
List of the White Plans:
Tensions with the police peaked in June 1966, when the construction worker Jan Weggelaar died during a demonstration. A strike was called by construction workers and large numbers of workers and their sympathisers, including Provos, marched through Amsterdam. Demonstrators fought the police in the streets (on the Dam and Damrak) and attacked the offices and vehicles of De Telegraaf.
At the same time, the Provos participated in left-wing student protests against the Vietnam War. Demonstrations were banned, resulting in an increase in their size and popularity. The police responded with increasing force, and by mid-1966 hundreds of arrests were made every week. Police brutality led to increasing sympathy for the Provos and the anti-war demonstrators among the general public. An official investigation into the crisis was opened.
These events eventually led to the dismissal of Amsterdam's police chief, H. J. van der Molen, in 1966 and the resignation of mayor Gijsbert van Hall in 1967. After van Hall had been removed, Grootveld and Rob Stolk (printer of Provo magazine) decided to end Provo. Stolk said: "Provo has to disappear because all the Great Men that made us big have gone", a reference to Provo's two arch-enemies, Van Hall and Van der Molen.
Many Provo groups emerged in other cities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and New York. Stockholm staged an anti-nuclear war happening/action under the name Provies. In London a "Death and Rebirth of International Times" happening, after a police raid of the first UK underground paper, was seen as a Provo event.
Mike Lesser, part-owner of The Badge Boutique, took part in the ceremonies and was ecstatic about them! It is really happening here. The Provo scene is really happening here in London, with no leaders or nonsense like that."