Activists question court-ordered demolition in El Gallinero

Six families see residences knocked down in Madrid shantytown

Madrid -
A woman speaks on the phone as a nearby police officer observes the demolition of shacks in El Gallinero.
A woman speaks on the phone as a nearby police officer observes the demolition of shacks in El Gallinero.CARLOS ROSILLO (El Pais)

"Much sad, much sad," says Sidonia as she taps the baby carriage carrying her three-week-old child. She watched in anguish on Monday as police accompanied public demolition workers to knock down shacks and makeshift homes that had been built illegally in El Gallinero shantytown outside Madrid.

Sixteen police vans, including a squad of riot police, kept watch as the demolition got underway early Monday morning. They had a court order, which stemmed from a petition by the Valdecarros Coop Board, which alleged that the shacks had recently been built on the land.

Volunteers, including aid workers and religious leaders, were unable to fight the court order. The board is made up of around 200 families, who had planned on building 50,000 new homes in the area before the housing crisis hit.

The land where El Gallinero is located is also a possible site for US businessman Sheldon Adelson's so-called "Euro Vegas" complex of casinos and hotels.

The volunteers who were helping the residents find temporary accommodation claimed that the court order did not specifically state that the homes were to be demolished.

The Catalin family, who lived in shack number 56, saw their house demolished on Monday. "I told the police that I have kids. Where am I going to live?" asked Elena, who added that she will not move from the area.

Six families saw their residences knocked down. "This operation has nothing to do with drugs, or anyone stealing copper cable," said Patricia Fernández, a lawyer who is acting for the residents.

El Gallinero was established in 2007 by undocumented migrants from Romania, who arrived in Spain before Romanian citizens had freedom of movement throughout the European Union.

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