Barcelona sees third night of violence over eviction of squatter community

Around 1,000 organized protestors light barricades and clash with riot police in Sants district Demonstrations against Monday’s clearing of Can Vies center spread across Catalonia Occupied building was a hub for alternative social movements

Protestors set a barricade on fire in Barcelona’s Sants neighborhood.
Protestors set a barricade on fire in Barcelona’s Sants neighborhood.JUAN BARBOSA

Over 1,000 protestors clashed with riot police on the streets of Barcelona for the third night on Wednesday over the eviction of a community of squatters.

The protests also extended in more peaceful form to the four Catalan provinces, as well as Valencia, Palma de Mallorca and the Burgos neighborhood of El Gamonal, which made headlines in January after local protests managed to halt a controversial project for an underground parking lot.

The regional Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, made 25 arrests following the violent confrontation in the Barcelona neighborhood of Sants, where the Can Vies squatter center was cleared on Monday. First occupied by squatters 17 years ago, the center, which is the property of the municipal transportation authority, Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB), had grown to become a point of reference for alternative social movements and a generator of cultural activities in the community.

The protestors were well organized, arriving in the area from other parts of the city and quickly falling into columns right across from the rows of riot police. The showdown began when a group of youths created a barricade with several trash containers and set some of them on fire.

A pitched battle ensued, with police charging hard against the protestors and over 1,000 people running up and down the little side alleys off Sants street, in this southern part of the city. Dozens of demonstrators hurled stones and other objects at the riot officers.

The mayor is willing to negotiate but “without blackmailing us with people’s fear”

The Interior Ministry had sent a contingent of 200 National Police riot officers to Barcelona, and offered their services to the Catalan regional government. But the CiU Catalan nationalist regional government of premier Artur Mas declined the offer and sent only Mossos d’Esquadra officers to deal with the street protests.

Prior to Wednesday, small groups of demonstrators acting simultaneously at various focal points had committed a number of violent acts, including the burning of a TV van belonging to Catalonia’s TV-3 network and of a digger that had begun to demolish the center, as well as over 50 trash containers. The regional police also come into criticism for the force they employed in the charges, which caused numerous injuries.

Regional government spokesman Francesc Homs on Thursday morning said that all talks with representatives of Can Vies will be on hold until the violent protesting ends. “While the violence continues, there cannot be any concessions, because it would be admitting that things can be achieved with violent attitudes,” he said.

His words echoed those of City Mayor Xavier Trias, also of the CiU nationalist bloc, who on Wednesday said: “There can be as many protests and demonstrations as they like, but we cannot accept acts of violence.”

Trias added that he remained willing to negotiatiate but “without blackmailing us with people’s fear.”

Protests elsewhere in Catalonia on Wednesday were mostly peaceful. In Lleida, banks were spray-painted with the message “If Can Vies falls, Catalonia goes up in flames.”

In Tarragona, protestors chanted against the ruling coalition, CiU, and held signs that read, “He who sows misery reaps wrath.”

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