Burgos residents’ pitched battle against boulevard plan stretches into third day

Mayor says most citizens “ashamed” of image conveyed by violence

Protesters stand near a burning garbage container during a demonstration against construction plans to turn the Vitoria main avenue into a boulevard in Burgos.
Protesters stand near a burning garbage container during a demonstration against construction plans to turn the Vitoria main avenue into a boulevard in Burgos. RICARDO ORDÓÑEZ / REUTERS

The pitched battle between residents of Burgos and their mayor was by no means over on Sunday night. After two straight days of violent protests over the remodeling of a street in the neighborhood of Gamonal, demonstrators agreed to gather again at 7pm on Sunday to express their opposition to the project.

Over 40 people were arrested following the demonstrations held on Friday and Saturday, when protestors hurled rocks at riot police, burnt garbage dumpsters and broke the windows of telephone booths, bus shelters and bank branches.

Burgos Mayor Javier Lacalle addressed the media on Sunday to defend the remodeling project.

“We devote eight out of 10 euros to public services and just one to investments like this one, which also aims to stimulate economic activity in the city and improve public spaces,” the Popular Party politician said.

Lacalle said most Burgos residents are “ashamed” of the image their city is offering to the world and that the protests “in no way represent the city.”

But residents of this working-class neighborhood of 70,000 people say they protested peacefully for two months before their patience ran out when they learned of the project to reduce the number of car lanes on Calle Vitoria, create a bicycle path and build an underground parking lot to make up for the loss of parking spaces above ground. The project will cost an estimated 13 million euros. “They act shocked about a broken piece of canvas, but not when they destroy an entire family with their tax hikes and their nonexistent social reforms,” says Enrique Alonso Velasca, a member of the United Left’s youth group. “Violence is not ideal, but let’s see if the mayor listens to us this way.”

“Debts need to be repaid and an endless list of social services created before embarking on a reform that is only going to beautify the city,” says E.P.R., a 35-year-old woman who is unemployed.