postvirtual

Standoff at Bankia

In Madrid, Spain on 26 October 2012 at 19:24

October 26

Dear people,

After Bankia’s refusal to negotiate, the campers took action. At one o’ clock in the afternoon they occupied the Bankia franchise in Alcalà 1, at the corner of Puerta del Sol.

Police went in after them and sealed off the entrance against sympathisers and press who assembled outside.

The occupiers demanded an end to the evictions, and the right to for those at risk of eviction to stay in their houses, paying a social rent.

Bankia is owned by the people. It is now officially supposed to serve the public instead of its shareholders. They don’t know it yet and they have a hard time to adapt to the idea. They can’t even dole out bonuses to their managers next Christmas. Not because the government doesn’t allow them, but because the EU wouldn’t have it.

The hours went by and the management persisted in its refusal to negotiate. Around five o’ clock, the occupiers sent out a comuniqué. It was read to the press on the bank’s doorstep.

They had been denied water. One of them suffering from diabetes was denied medical attention. On the outside there was medical personnel ready with food and water, there was a human rights observer. None of them could enter. According to the comuniqué the occupiers were even denied access to the toilet.

Rumours going around said that they were subject to arrest in case they wet themselves. All the same, the occupiers vowed to continue.

The people outside were not many. And half of them were press. Those who weren’t kept singing that their comrades inside were not alone. And that “Bankia kills”.

Yesterday’s suicide is not the only one linked to an eviction. More cases are surfacing. It’s just that none of those had been theatrical enough to be picked up by the media.

Bankia’s management found itself in a difficult situation. They were up against people with nothing to lose. If they had opted for arrest and violent dispersion of the people outside, it could have had enormous repercussions.

The bank should have closed at three. At a quarter past seven, the occupiers walked out of the side entrance. They had gained a tactical victory. Finally, Bankia had agreed to negotiate with people collectively about a social rent. They also agreed to defer next Monday’s eviction.

The occupiers accepted, adding that they will not lift their camp in front of Bankia HQ, because they don’t have any reason to trust the bankers. They will also formally denounce the way they were treated.

It’s a first step. If it doesn’t lead anywhere, people will return to occupy the bank on the inside. After all, since it was nationalised, Bankia is public space.

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