'We're not just protesting for the fun of it'
The Local · 17 Apr 2013, 09:50
Published: 16 Apr 2013 17:09 GMT+02:00
Updated: 17 Apr 2013 09:50 GMT+02:00
- Spanish region blocks home evictions (13 Apr 13)
- Anti-evictions group gears up for busy spring (10 Apr 13)
- Anti-eviction protestors bring fight home (04 Apr 13)
In 2008, Spain's real estate bubble burst and the country entered a crisis which continues to this day.
One of the most traumatic effects of this long economic recession has been the huge number of home evictions in Spain, with many people finding themselves unable to pay their mortgages.
Figures from a national judiciary council show that Spain's courts have carried out a staggering 252,826 expulsion orders since 2008, news agency AFP reported recently.
In total, 38,778 primary and secondary residences were taken back by lenders last year, said the country's El País newspaper in early April.
At the same time, a housing census carried out by Spain's national statistics office showed that 20 percent of Spanish residences stood empty in 2011.
It's perhaps not surprising then that the anti-home eviction movement has been gathering ground in Spain for some time now.
On January 29th, the issue gained even more prominence when Ada Colau, a 38-year-old civil rights activist from Barcelona, condemned Spain's current evictions regime as "criminal" in the national parliament.
Colau has headed up Spain's anti-evictions lobby, the PAH, for four years, with the group claiming to have stopped over 600 evictions in that time.
After Colau's appearance in parliament, however, the popularity of her group really took off.
The activist now has almost 64,000 followers on Twitter, up from around 12,000 in January.
On February 12th, Colau and her colleagues attended parliament to call for legal changes to allow outstanding mortgage debt to be liquidated on surrender of property.
They presented a popular initiative against forced home evictions which had been signed by over a million and a half people.
Colau's words in parliament were given extra weight when Basque MP Uxue Barkos informed the house that a couple in Mallorca had just committed suicide after finding out they were to be evicted.
Since then, the PAH has staged several high profile protests against home evictions.
The campaign calls for an end to all forced evictions in Spain and more social housing.
Recently, though, the group has changed its methods, adding the highly controversial "escrache" tactic to its arsenal.
"Escraches" — the word comes from an Argentinian slang word meaning to denounce people — involve the direct targeting of politicians' homes and offices to put even greater pressure on them.
In Spain, the protests have seen demonstators placing stickers on the doors of ruling Popular Party (PP) politicians or chanting slogans outside their offices.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the move has attracted widespread condemnation from politicians.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has repeatedly labelled the "escraches" as undemocratic.
Speaking at a meeting of the top brass of the PP recently, Rajoy said: "These days we see that many of our party comrades are being harassed. We have seen episodes of intimidation or verbal abuse towards them, and what is worse, to their families."
"Nobody deserves to be harassed, vilified, threatened or intimidated," the Spanish Prime Minister said.
They said their cause was a question of "human rights" and that "there are lives in play".
They also said any politician who opposed February's public initiative could be the target of an escrache-style protest.