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STREET RIOTS

New protests in Barcelona after squatters fail to take back bank office

Riot police charge against demonstrators, who hurled bleach at them at a march in the Gràcia district

Banco expropiado Gracia
First police charges in Gràcia.

Barcelona witnessed new clashes between street protesters and riot police on Sunday over a squatter eviction in the district of Gràcia.

Around 300 people gathered at noon in Plaça de la Revolució, just meters away from a former bank branch that was taken by squatters five years ago and turned into a community center.

Demonstrators hurled objects at the police, who held their ground around the so-called Banc Expropiat (The Expropriated Bank) to prevent squatters from re-entering the premises. Protesters had vowed to take it back.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has claimed that the city cannot do much because this is a conflict between private parties

Although the protest began in a festive mood, around 90 minutes later the tension began to rise as several youths attempted to break through the police cordon and reach the old CatalunyaCaixa branch. It was this bank that decided to have the squatters evicted on Monday through a court order.

Squatters wearing plastic helmets began hurling water, bleach, confetti and a variety of objects at the police. A photographer was injured by a flying can lobbed by one of the protesters.

The Mossos d’Esquadra – the regional police force – responded with three charges that were less aggressive than the ones seen throughout last week’s clashes. As a result, 15 protesters and seven law enforcement officers were injured, according to figures provided by the police and by the squatters.

Lunch break

The protesting ended when demonstrators decided that it was time to break for lunch, as a Twitter message announced: “We are pulling back at Plaza de la Revolució, we are temporarily lifting the siege. We’re not scared, we’re hungry.”

The protesters agreed to meet again at 4pm to newly take up their cause. There to join them were members of the Catalan parliament affiliated with the CUP, an anti-capitalist political group that has been expressing sympathy for the squatters.

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Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, a former anti-eviction activist herself, has been accused of being soft on protesters, who destroyed street furniture in last week’s demonstrations. Spain’s acting Interior Minister, Jorge Fernández Diáz, said that Colau is “putting herself in an equidistant spot, in the best of cases.”

Colau has claimed that the city cannot do much because this is a conflict between private parties, and because the squatters have rejected city officials’ offer to act as mediators. The mayor is instead asking neighbors to talk to the protesters and reach a deal with them.

Also last week, it emerged that former mayor Xavier Trias of the CiU nationalists had been secretly paying the squatters’ rent and expenses for years – with taxpayers’ money – in order to avoid an eviction and street violence.

English version by Susana Urra.

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