Around 200 people gathered early Monday morning in the Burgos neighborhood of Gamonal to stop machine operators from resuming a construction project that has deeply divided the city.
“Gamonal does not want a boulevard!” chanted the protesters, who were slowly joined by other residents and onlookers under the watchful eye of 10 police patrols.
The large police turnout is a result of three straight days of street protests against the conversion of Calle de Vitoria into a boulevard, which will mean losing car lanes and parking spots in favor of a bicycle lane and an underground parking, at a cost of eight million euros.
Around 40 people were arrested on Friday and Saturday after the protests turned violent, resulting in burnt trash containers, broken bank windows and damage to street furniture.
“It's all very esthetic, very nice, but it's useless to us,” says one local resident of a working class district that has been hard hit by unemployment, and where people say they need more social services, not more street beautification.
“The mayor's going to have to do something about this, because we're not going to budge,” asserts Teodora Palacios, 61, who is part of the group standing guard at the corner of Calle de Vitoria and Calle de San Bruno. Activists are organizing shifts of 100 people at a time so that the construction site is never deserted at any time.
The state secretary for security, Francisco Martínez Vázquez, said in an interview on SER radio station that the incidents in Gamonal are the work of “violent groups that travel” to different parts of Spain.
“Once again, we see how violent groups infiltrate neighborhood movements, generating enormous social damage,” he said.
On Sunday evening, demonstrators marched to the local police precinct to protest the arrests of their fellow activists; later, around 1,000 people gathered in front of the newspaper Diario de Burgos, yelling out “They've sold out; they're not really reporting on what's going on here!”
Meanwhile, 26 of the 40 detainees were released on Saturday.
“We have to defend the people who were arrested because they acted for a fair cause and the mayor needs to be kicked out of Burgos,” said a man in his eighties.