For the first time since a citizens' group began stopping the eviction of indebted residents from their foreclosed homes, the police on Wednesday were called out in full force to keep activists from preventing a judicial committee from carrying out another eviction.
More than 50 anti-riot police cordoned off a large area of Madrid's Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood to prevent demonstrators from interfering with a judge's order.
It was the second time a bailiff had tried to serve the papers on María José, a 55-year-old unemployed mother of two. But this time, with the help of the police, the committee successfully evicted her and her children, including a 25-year-old son who has a 77-percent disability.
The so-called Platform for the Mortgage Affected (PAH), which has stopped more than 50 court evictions for non-payment of mortgages, mobilized its members early Wednesday morning when it found out the court had issued another notice for the family. The PAH had been able to stop the first attempt on July 6.
At 7.45am riot police pushed back 20 PAH protestors before cordoning off the area. By 8.30am, dozens began gathering, but it was too late. The police had kept them so far back that they couldn't even see the apartment.
Once the area was cleared, the judicial committee ? two court bailiffs, a municipal police officer, a locksmith and a bank representative ? was allowed through.
Inside, María José was with her 24-year-old daughter and two activists from the 15-M Movement, who had spent the night with the family and had padlocked the front door. Chema Ruiz, a PAH spokeswoman, arrived at 6am.
At 9.30am, the committee arrived with two moving vans, but María José's lawyer, Rafael Mayoral, who is the PAH legal advisor, was not allowed through. Earlier, Mayoral had filed a complaint against Madrid Judge María Trinidad Cepa, who issued the eviction order, for disregarding her judicial duty by not "alerting the neighbors about the eviction so that they could argue against it," a protection provided under the Law of Civil Trial Procedure.
The police broke the padlock and forced the activists from María José's home before carrying out the eviction. Visibly affected, the mother and daughter came out to the street to thank the protestors. "Thanks for coming. I am not a deadbeat just a poor woman," María José said.
Eighteen years ago María José was forced to mortgage her home to pay debts that she and her then-husband had accumulated. In 2002, following her divorce, she went to a debt consolidator who helped her get another mortgage from Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM). Now CAM is demanding 200,000 euros plus interest. The mother receives 520 euros a month for her disabled son plus 167 euros under the Dependency Law. Her daughter is also unemployed.
PAH has demanded that the local Ciudad Lineal council give her a home. In the meantime, she and her children will stay at an empty business belonging to a neighbor.