October 13, 0130 hrs
It lasted for about four hours. Authorities didn’t reflect on it, they struck back immediately.
At around eleven thirty this evening they sent police to shut down the housewarming party of the recently reoccupied Social Center Casablanca. And they made a show out of it.
I wasn’t there. I had just finished a translation into English of the comunicado from the centre’s website, which went up simultaneously with the re-occupation.
The text (down below) was an outcry of the neighbourhood against real estate speculation. It justified the occupation with the people’s need for a community space where they can shape their society together.
I just sent the piece up when I got a call. “They have arrived. I see six, seven, eight police vans. They are going to evict.” Then the line fell.
So I went. I almost got lost in the alleys of Lavapiès, but I couldn’t miss it. A long, long file of lecheras – or ‘milkmaids’ as the police vans are commonly known – was queued up in the streets. At a certain point, I stopped counting. Estimates say thirty.
I was impressed. Really. Like the epic scenes from Star Wars when miles and miles of Imperial Star Destroyer come slowly floating by over the screen. It was hard core.
The police had cut all the streets around the centre. I harvest the latest news and rumours. There were sixty people inside when it started. Police went in with a battering ram. They identified the people inside, then let them go. Thirty were still inside at the moment, and about to be released. Two were taken in because they had no ID on them.
I don’t know how gentle or violent the actual eviction was. All I saw when I arrived was a line of officers blocking a street.
They were ordered to disperse the crowd by pushing people down the road. All around the perimeter of the social center, this meant they were actually occupying a significant part of the neighbourhood. And the neighbours definitely didn’t like it. They made noise, they clapped their hands in rage, they banged against containers, from the windows they clashed their pots and pans.
And they hurled their outrage at the police. ‘Shame!’ ‘This is our neighbourhood! Get out!’ ‘You are to protect the citizens, not oppress them!’ ‘Mercenaries!’
I look at those officers. There are six in front of us. Only one has a shield. Two have guns. I look at their faces. Poor bastards. I really felt for them at that moment.
The shame in their eyes, it was touching. They did not like being there, and they did not make an effort to hide that. You could see they felt used. It hurt them when someone shouted that they had sold themselves for a plate of lentils.
Right there, I intuitively felt that authorities had made mistake. They enraged people by insisting on denying them access to a place that is legitimately theirs. They gave a exaggerated display of power tonight, and in the act they humiliated dozens upon dozens of police officers by forcing them to do this job.
Resistance will be punished harder in Spain, and oppression is being increased step by step. Around me there is talk of this becoming a police state. Then I look the officers in the eyes, one after another. True, this is police state strategy. But the line is very tin.
And this line is all they have. Riot police. Officers from the municipal corps make it clear they are something different. And the vibe from the army is that they will not suppress the population.
The thin line could break if we don’t give authorities reason to justify oppression. It comes down to simple fear. But the fear is not on our side. It’s on the police officer’s side. Fear to lose their plate of lentils. They enter Casablanca with a battering ram, because for the moment they are afraid to enter the place as citizens, and to join us in creating our own space, our own way of life.
Check out the video
Footage of the raid
from inside: http://bambuser.com/v/3057129
from outside: http://bambuser.com/v/3057132
Comunicado (Spanish original)
Inauguration of a newly liberated space in Lavapiès: CSOA Magerit
Today, as neighbours of Lavapiès we inaugurate a space that has been recently liberated. This decision comes from our need to have a place where we can come together and shape our social life. We believe it’s necessary for people to have places where we can build our lives freely and collectively. This is what we aim to achieve with the inauguration of the new Occupied and Selforganised Social Centre Magerit.
The reason we elected this particular place have everything to do with the situation we are currently living. The economic and social crisis that invested us has been largely caused by the greed of people who are playing with our lives. The real estate speculation (of which this space is a clear example) has affected a fundamental part of people’s lives: their homes, from which the whole social fabric stems. The construction companies, the real estate speculators, the banks, etc. (with the approval of the political parties and elites) are responsible for the fact that we have no home now, that education is expensive, that unemployment benefits have been reduced, that we are losing our fundamental rights – health, freedom of expression….
By liberating this space from speculation, we want to transform it, together with many people, into a real alternative to this ever more inhospitable world.
We want this new space to be open to all people from the neighbourhood, from the city, and from everywhere else, and we invite them to participate.
Come and discover what is behind this door… come to create it.