PROTEST VIOLENCE

Five anti-eviction activists injured in skirmish with Catalan police

Platform for Mortgage Affected fails to stop family's forced removal in Salt

Catalan police dislodge a protestor at an eviction last year in Clot, Barcelona. / CARLES RIBAS

Five members of the Platform for the Mortgage Affected (PAH) were injured on Tuesday after a scuffle broke out in the Barcelona town of Salt, where activists tried to stop an eviction and were confronted by the Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra police.

One of the PAH members was taken to the Olot Hospital for surgery after he was reportedly hit on his shinbone with a nightstick.

Around 70 people gathered in front of the gate of a condominium building to stop court bailiffs from evicting a Moroccan couple and their two children. The bailiffs refused to negotiate and the police were called in to dislodge the activists. Using their nightsticks, the Catalan officers began beating some of the PAH members.

Emergency services officials said that they had to treat two people for injuries.

"It was excessive force used against a group of peaceful demonstrators," said Marta Afuera, a PAH spokeswoman who also suffered a beating.

In a statement released later, PAH members said they will be filing police brutality charges. "We have compiled all the medical reports of the injuries and will file a court lawsuit to hold law enforcement responsible," it read.

It was excessive force used against a group of peaceful demonstrators"

The Initiative for Catalan leftist greens (ICV-EUiA) of Girona has called for a government investigation to find those responsible for what they called an "unjust" intervention. The political organization has also publicly thrown its support behind PAH.

Meanwhile, PAH members organized a protest in front of the governing Catalan CiU national bloc's headquarters in Sant Jordi as well as in front of the Popular Party's (PP) offices.

At least seven police vehicles pulled up in front of the impoverished building, near Salt's City Hall, after bailiffs refused to postpone the eviction.

The platform says that it has blocked some 150 evictions throughout Spain since 2009.

"We told them that we were not budging and then they began to throw us out by force," said one of the activists present.

Dozens of onlookers gathered when the skirmish broke out. With the help of the police, bailiffs were able to evict Mohamed Bartal and his family at around 11.15am.

Bartal - who has two children aged three years and six months - said he purchased the property for 145,000 euros by taking out a family mortgage in 2003, which savings bank Bankia now holds.

After he lost his job, he stopped making payments, and now the family survives on 570 euros a month paid by Catalonia's social services. Bartal said he didn't know where he was going to sleep on Tuesday night.

"We still have some things inside but they changed the locks," he said.

This was the third attempt by bailiffs to evict Bartal and his family. In January, the eviction was postponed for two months on the recommendation of the social services, which determined that the family faced a high risk of social exclusion if they were thrown out. At the beginning of March, social services issued another report asking that the eviction be halted until the city could negotiate a solution.

Salt officials offered the family the opportunity to rent a home for 350 euros a month if they turned over the keys of the apartment. They even proposed financing his rent and paying the first monthly payment, but Bartal declined the offer.

"How am I going to pay 350 euros a month when I only receive 570 euros in aid?" he said. "I have to pay electricity, water and food for my children."

Salt officials said that they were "profoundly" saddened that the situation didn't turn out better for the family.

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