Doorstep protestors may face fines of up to 6,000 euros in Madrid

Former Popular Party lawmaker threatens to beat up “hippie” demonstrators

Jorge Verstrynge is asked for his ID card by police officers outside the home of Deputy PM Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. / Uly Martin (EL PAÍS)

More than 30 people in Madrid may face charges for taking part in protests at the homes of politicians, in what is becoming a fast-growing movement organized by groups who are demonstrating against Spain’s current home mortgage policies.

Cristina Cifuentes, the Popular Party (PP) national government’s delegate in Madrid, is expected to approve a series of misdemeanor charges against demonstrators who have been participating in these doorstep protests, popularly known in Spanish as escraches, which have been taking place across the city and elsewhere in Spain on the doorsteps of the homes of PP officials.

One of those demonstrators who could face a fine, according to the police, is Jorge Verstrynge, a former secretary general to the PP’s conservative predecessor party, the Popular Alliance (AP), who reportedly took part in a protest in front of the home of Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría on April 5. Verstrynge served as AP secretary general from 1979-1986.

Madrid Police Chief Alfonso José Fernández Díez said Thursday that he has given orders to his officers to begin identifying people who gather at the homes of politicians to hold protests, or anyone who harasses any elected official on the streets.

If they treat people like dogs, of course they are going to bite”

The Attorney General’s Office has also begun looking at ways under current laws to prosecute people who take part in these protests, which are reportedly being organized by members of the Mortgage Victims Platform (PAH) — a grassroots movement that is demanding that the government change the current banking laws they claim are unfavorable to homeowners who cannot meet their monthly payments. Over recent years the PAH has held blockades in front of homes to keep judicial authorities from evicting people from their properties for failure to keep up with their mortgage payments.

“I have nothing against Soraya,” said Verstrynge when asked about his participation in the April 5 protest. “That isn’t the issue. What is the issue is that there is a growing people’s movement and the politicians need to listen to what the citizens are saying. If they don’t listen to the people and start treating them like dogs, of course they are going to bite.”

According to the police, Verstrynge is considered the organizer of the doorstep protest at Sáenz de Santamaría’s home. He could face a fine of between 300 and 6,000 euros under a 1992 security code adopted in Madrid called the Corcuera Law.

Meanwhile, former PP deputy Sigfrid Soria caused controversy on Thursday with comments made on his Twitter account related to the escraches. “I will beat the shit out of any hippie who tries to harass or intimidate me; they won’t know what hit them,” he wrote on the microblogging site. Soon after his threats were made public, the PP national committee suspended him from the party.

I will beat the shit out of any hippie who tries to intimidate me"

In an interview with the SER radio network, Soria, who served as deputy for the Canary Islands, made more incendiary comments. “I will exercise my right to self-defense and rip off the head of anyone who tries to harass me or my family on the streets,” he said.

In Galicia, PP deputy Celso Delgado Arce, who serves as chairman of the congressional Public Works Committee, met with a small group of protestors who had gathered outside his home in Ourense.

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