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Violent protests in Barcelona over eviction of a squat in Sants neighbourhood

From Monday to Wednesday, there have been many demonstrations and small riots in Barcelona and other cities throughout Catalonia to protest against the eviction of the Can Vies squat, a social centre managed by associations and anarchist trade unions. The Can Vies squat was running since 1997 and it was a symbol among the alternative left and anti-system movements. It was occupying a small building owned by Barcelona’s Metropolitan Transport Authority (TMB), which had somehow tolerated the occupation of its facilities. However, since a few years ago the building has been affected by a town planning project. On Monday the Catalan Police started to empty Can Vies, after it had been paralysed for a long time by civil mobilisations. However, on Monday evening the building was finally emptied, bricked up and a bulldozer started to demolish it. This sparked the conflict. The Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, insisted he will not negotiate until the violence ends.

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28 May 2014 11:47 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- From Monday to Wednesday, there have been many demonstrations and small riots in Barcelona and other cities throughout Catalonia to protest against the eviction of the Can Vies squat, a social centre self-managed by civil associations and anarchist trade unions. The Can Vies squat was running since 1997 and was a symbol among the alternative left and anti-system movements in Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia. It was occupying a small building next to the train tracks in Sants on a dead-end street, which is owned by Barcelona’s Metropolitan Transport Authority (TMB). TMB had somehow tolerated the occupation of its facilities, but since a few years ago the building has been affected by a town planning project that is to cover the train tracks with a park. Now TMB argues that parts of the building – built in the late 19th century – have to be demolished because they are in a bad condition and people could get hurt. On Monday, the day after the European elections, the Catalan Police started to empty Can Vies, an eviction that had been paralysed for a long while by civil mobilisations. In the past few months, the City Council and the associations located in Can Vies had been negotiating, but a few weeks ago dialogue was broken off. Barcelona’s Mayor, Xavier Trias, stated on Wednesday that he will not negotiate again until all violence ends.


After 17 years of social and cultural activities in the Sants neighbourhood in the western part of the Barcelona municipality, as of last Monday, the Can Vies squat no longer exists. The occupied building had been split into a residential part for squatters and a self-managed centre hosting activities for the neighbours, such as hosting theatre and dance groups, organising cinema sessions and art exhibitions or holding political debates and conferences. Can Vies had become a flagship of the squat and alternative left movements in Catalonia.

This Wednesday, neighbours expressed contradictory feelings regarding the dismantling of Can Vies. On one hand they regret the death of this self-managed centre that was an active part of the neighbourhood but, on the other, are angry and scared by the violent protests by the Can Vies organisations and their sympathisers.

Authorities started to demolish the squat and protesters burnt the bulldozer and a TV unit 

On Monday evening, after Catalan Police managed to remove 12 activists that were presenting passive resistance through actions such as chaining themselves to the rooftop, the building was finally emptied. Immediately it was bricked up and a bulldozer started to demolish a part of it.

This sparked a series of demonstrations and violent protests, which ended with the bulldozer and a mobile TV unit being burnt out on Monday night. In addition, small riots took place in several Barcelona neighbourhoods on Tuesday evening and 6 people were arrested. Monday night was particularly chaotic and by Tuesday night riots had travelled to other parts of the city, expanding the problem. This Wednesday, alternative left groups organised demonstrations in 50 different places of Catalonia, arguing that Can Vies “cannot be touched”.

Catalan Police attack an alternative left magazine 

The Catalan Police – called Mossos d’Esquadra – made great efforts to act against protesters on Monday and Tuesday evening. However, the Mossos also sparked conflict when on Monday they broke the front window of the newsroom of a famous alternative left magazine ‘La Directa’, which happens to have its headquarters near Can Vies, and were about to hit reporters. In the middle of this crisis, the General Director of the Catalan Police, Manel Prat, resigned on Tuesday evening “for strictly personal reasons”.

Member of the Catalan Parliament Daniel Fernández, who is one of the leaders of the radical left and independence party CUP, criticised the Mossos’ attack against ‘La Directa’. In addition, the CUP, as part of the anti-system movement, has given its full support to the Can Vies organisations and has contributed to organising the demonstrations throughout Catalonia. 

Barcelona City Council will not sit at the negotiating table again if violence continues

Protesters are accusing Barcelona City Council of lying. According to them, public authorities were initially saying that they needed to undertake renovation work on the building. Can Vies people believe that in reality authorities only wanted to tear it down.

However, Barcelona Mayor Xavier Trias insists Can Vies groups were offered the possibility to occupy another building in the Sants neighbourhood, free of charge, so as they could continue carrying out their social and cultural activities. After the violent protests of the past 3 days, Trias stated on Wednesday that he will not negotiate until the violence ends.

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  • Riots continued on Wednesday evening in Barcelona (by P. Solà)

  • The burnt bulldozer on Wednesday in Can Vies (by L. Fíguls)

  • Riots continued on Wednesday evening in Barcelona (by P. Solà)
  • The burnt bulldozer on Wednesday in Can Vies (by L. Fíguls)
Violent protests in Barcelona over eviction of a squat in Sants neighbourhood (by ACN)