Riot police must be “proportionate” to avoid “violent escalation” in Barcelona, urges Mayor Colau
The eviction of squatters from the so-called ‘Expropriated Bank’ in Barcelona’s Gracia neighbourhood has caused three consecutive nights of riots in the city and has raised concerns in the press about an excessive use of force by the police. The Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, urged the police to avoid “a violent escalation”. Colau, a former activist herself, said that she trusts the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan Police, but admitted to being “worried” by reports that suggest that the riot squad’s behaviour was disproportionate. “I don’t know and I don’t want to prejudge anything. I trust the Mossos but I need to ask for caution and urge all police actions to aim at avoiding any escalation of violence”, she said, asking the officers to, first and foremost, “protect the neighbours”. Meanwhile, the Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating former mayor Xavier Trias, who for a year paid the rent of the ‘Expropriated Bank’ in order to avoid an eviction.
Barcelona (CNA).- The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, urged the Catalan Police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, to make “proportionate” use of force and avoid any “violent escalation” in the city’s Gracia neighbourhood, which has seen three consecutive nights of riots. The protests are against the eviction of a group of squatters from the so-called ‘Expropriated Bank’. Colau, a former activist, said that she trust the police but admitted to being “worried” about media reports that suggest an excessive use of force during the police interventions in the area. Indeed, the director general of the police, Albert Batlle, also said that “maybe some mistakes” were committed by officers during the riots.
“I don’t know and I don’t want to prejudge anything. I trust the Mossos but I need to ask for caution and urge all police actions to aim at avoiding any escalation of violence”, said Ada Colau, who asked the police officers to, first and foremost, “protect the neighbours”.
Colau explained that, despite some calls for dialogue from City Hall, the squatters from the ‘Expropriated Bank’ have so far refused to talk. The Council only had an email address to contact the squatters, who never replied to an email in which they were informed that they would be able to collect their personal belongings on the day of the eviction.
The Mayor of Barcelona stressed that people should differentiate between the “serious incidents” caused by a small number of violent people and the positive activities organised in the building over the years. “They were very positively appreciated by the local people”, she said in regards to the social and cultural activities of the ‘Expropriated Bank’, which she said should be allowed to continue.
Colau said that they should find a “constructive solution” based on “dialogue” between the Council and the neighbours. The aim, she said, is to achieve a good coexistence and to keep offering the social and cultural activities that were organised in the building.
A peaceful demonstration on Monday over the eviction of the so-called ‘Expropriated Bank’, a former office of the Caixa Tarragona bank occupied in 2011 and turned into a community centre integrated into the neighbourhood, ended in street riots. According to the police, after the rally, several people started making barricades, damaging urban furniture and several vehicles parked in the street and burning containers. Since then, incidents have occurred every night and both the Council and the Catalan Government have urged the activists to restrain their protest. At the same time, several left-wing organisations and members of the press have warned that the police have used excessive force.
Prosecutors investigate former mayor
In the midst of the crisis, the Public Prosecution has decided to start an investigation against the former Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, for an alleged embezzlement of public funds. Trias’ administration paid 5,500 euros a month to the landlords of the occupied ‘Expropriated Bank’ in order to avoid an eviction. The Council itself rented the building, paying 65,500 euros a year, to its owner, the company Antartic Vintage, the proprietor of which is Manuel Bravo Solano.
The lease expired last December, when the new administration, led by Ada Colau, decided against renewing it, thus forcing the eviction and the pursuing riots. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has asked the police to investigate the lease and the payments by the Council, and after six months it will have to decide whether it will take the issue to court or not.