Citizens in Barcelona rally on doorsteps to stop evictions

Offshoot of May 15 protest movement harks back to 1930s action against landlords by US communists

When the time comes for an eviction, a group of people gathers at the door of the building where a family is to be legally thrown out of their home. They are neighbors, other family members or just strangers who are interested in protecting the rights of others.

When the judicial commission arrives, the group of citizens explains to the officials - without getting smart-alecky - why they cannot carry out their order. A spokesman then begins to read from the pertinent clauses: Article 25 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration, Article II of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Article 47 of the Constitution.

Then the commission reads what it has to read and heads off. Group members begin to cry and hug each other - they have won for now, but know the commission will return.

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Since May 15, spontaneous events like these have started to pop up everywhere across Spain as citizens begin to demand more social protection. In Barcelona and its vicinity, there have been a dozen or so home evictions that have been halted in this manner. These actions, unprecedented in Spain, are reminiscent of the mass concentrations organized in the 1930s by the American Communist Party in New York and Chicago when landlords came with court orders to evict residents from their homes.

But there is no communist party or revolutionary union behind these groups. Inspired by the May 15 Movement, these citizens are called together through a webpage run by the Mortgage Victims Platform - an association of citizens who got together in 2009 to do something about what they say are unfair mortgage laws. When they learn about an impending eviction, the platform rallies supporters on the given date. Since 2007, there have been some 500,000 evictions throughout Spain.

"Since May 15, we have seen how many groups like ours have been organized throughout the nation, and how more citizens are showing up to stop evictions," says Lucía Delgado, a member of the platform.

In 2010, the Mortgage Victims Platform tried unsuccessfully to get the law changed to allow Spaniards to cancel their mortgage by giving up their homes. But the Socialists voted against the measure and the Popular Party abstained.

A woman who was to be evicted from her Barcelona home.
A woman who was to be evicted from her Barcelona home.ALBERT GARCIA
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