Spain's anti-evictions warrior bows out
The Local/AFP · 8 May 2014, 10:32
Published: 08 May 2014 10:32 GMT+02:00
- Top Ten: Spaniards who shaped the news in 2013 (10 Dec 13)
- Spain's anti-evictions lobby wins EU prize (06 Jun 13)
- Suicide stirs up Spain's home evictions debate (07 May 13)
- 'We're not just protesting for the fun of it' (17 Apr 13)
“I need to be able to voice my opinions without being the face of the PAH 24 hours a day,” the 40-year-old Barcelona activist wrote in a three-page press release.
“I’m doing it for myself and for the good of the movement,” she added when referring to the times she has “bitten her tongue” so that her words wouldn’t be associated with the reputation of her anti-evictions lobby.
Colau rose to fame in 2013 when she called both Spain’s stringent mortgage law, and a renowned banker who praised it, "criminal".
"I would've preferred to have thrown a shoe at him, but chose not to as I had some important things to say today in parliament," she added.
Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards watched her eloquent but passionate demolition of the evictions regime on YouTube, winning her 36,000 Twitter followers in less than three weeks.
As the figurehead behind the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH), a grassroots movement campaigning to protect ruined homeowners, Colau has taken on Spain's banks and politicians, winning her and her lobby an accolade from the European Parliament.
That honour crowned four years of abrasive work in which she stood in protest on the doorsteps of evictees trying to stop the police and bailiffs getting in. Back home, it angered the ruling Popular Party (PP).
"The PP went after me. There were some difficult weeks. They called me a terrorist. I received death threats," she told AFP in a cafe in her native Barcelona in March.
Her popularity among working-class Spaniards has led several of the country’s ostracized political parties to try to sign her up, but Colau has refused on the basis that “it would be completely incompatible with the role for the PAH” and because “the political party system is part of the problem”.
She has however assured her followers she will still play an active role for a group which claims to have blocked about 1,000 evictions and helped another 1,000 people get a roof over their head by occupying empty buildings.