Evicted bank squatters bring protest to central Barcelona

Around 200 people converge on offices of property developer, promising bigger march on Saturday

Demonstrators face up against riot police.
Demonstrators face up against riot police.Joan Sánchez

Around 200 people staged a noisy demonstration on Thursday afternoon outside the Barcelona offices of the owner of a former bank-turned-community center in the city’s Grácia neighborhood, where police recently evicted squatters, sparking violent protests over several nights.

Many in the crowd concealed their identity by wearing masks featuring the face of the owner of the repossessed property, Manuel Bravo Solano, while others bore signs reading Bravo Solano get out of our neighborhood.

The squatters who lived for five years at a former bank refuse to talk to Barcelona City Hall, which has offered them alternative, municipally-owned properties

As shoppers and office workers looked on, the protesters began pasting posters and spray-painting the windows of upmarket stores of the Paseo de Gràcia, one of the Catalan capital’s main thoroughfares.

But when the demonstrators arrived at an office building owned by Bravo Solano, they were met by a line of riot police. After hurling insults at the police and reporters covering the event, the protesters then handed out leaflets to passersby.

After a few minutes, escorted by the police, the group returned to the nearby Grácia neighborhood, making their way to the former bank where the organizers said they would organize a bigger march for Saturday.

Barcelona has seen similar incidents over recent years: efforts to evict squatters from the Can Vies former labor union headquarters two years ago resulted in a negotiated settlement that allowed occupiers to remain. This time round, the building is privately owned and the squatters are not prepared to negotiate. The squatters who lived for five years at the former bank have refused to talk to Barcelona City Hall, which has offered them alternative, municipally owned properties.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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