A last minute decision by the European Court of Human Rights stopped, temporarily, the eviction of 43 people who have been occupying an empty block of flats in Salt, Girona, known as #BlocSalt. Over 700 people, organised by the anti-eviction movement PAH and many wearing green t-shirts with the slogan “Stop Evictions”, spent the night at the building in sleeping bags, ready to prevent residents from being turfed out by police on Wednesday, including a large contingent of firefighters in uniform. This case highlights one of the most scandalous features of the housing crisis in Spain.
Doris Perez broke into tears when she heard she could stay two weeks more in the Spanish apartment she has occupied, amid a mass protest to save her and scores of others from eviction.
“This measure opens a legal path to correct the judicial indecency of the Spanish courts,” said a lawyer acting for the families, Manel Benet.
Until the 24th the Spanish government has time to explain how it will preserve the human rights of the 43 inhabitants (21 children among them) in case of eviction.
The families who live in BlocSalt consist of 43 people including 21 minors. They took it over in March this year as part of a campaign by the Plaftorm of those Affected by Mortgages (PAH) to highlight the housing crisis and attempt to provide concrete solutions for families being evicted from their homes. The building was a newly built finished block of flats which belonged to Mare Nostrum bank and had been empty for three years at the time of the occupation.
Mare Nostrum was the result of the merger, in 2010, of three regional savings banks and at the time of its creation it received 900 million euros of state funds, through the bailout fund FROB. In 2013 it was bailed out again, to the tune of another 730 million euros. Finally Mare Nostrum’s assets were forcibly transferred to SAREB, the “bad bank” created under the European bailout of Spanish banks to dispose of the “bad” assets held by bailed out banks. SAREB is 45% owned by the Spanish state.
A Spanish court ordered that the residents of the building be evicted on Wednesday at Sareb’s request. The families, backed by PAH, appealed the decision to the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg.
So here we have the scandalous situation of a partly state-owned bank wanting to evict families from a block of flats it owns, so that the building remains empty, while these very same families have been left homeless by the same banks that the state has bailed out! This only makes sense under the logic of capitalism in which the rights in private property of a few bankers take precedence over the right to housing of ordinary working people.
In the case of the BlocSalt, in Girona, once the date for the eviction was set, after months of constant harassment on the part of the authorities, the PAH launched a mobilisation campaign. Activists from the PAH and other movements travelled to Salt, Girona, to physically prevent the eviction of the 43 people living in the block. Over 700 people were registered and spent the night of October 15 to 16 in the premises. Significantly, 100 firefighters, a group of workers who have pledged, nationally, not to take part or collaborate in any eviction, also travelled to Salt, wearing their uniforms and joined in the resistance.
A group of 38 MPs from the Catalan parliament belonging to ICV-EUiA, CUP, ERC and PSC had signed a statement opposing the eviction and asking the Catalan police force, the Mossos, to disobey the order to carry it out. More interesting was the debate which took place in the Girona municipal council, when a motion was put opposing the eviction. ICV-EUiA, CUP and PSC voted in favour of the motion, but the Popular Party (right wing ruling party in Spain) and CiU (nationalist bourgeois, in power in Catalonia) both voted against, and the local mayor (from CiU) even had to use his casting vote to defeat the motion. This is significant because PP and CiU are supposed to be mortal enemies when it comes to Catalonia’s right of self-determination, one using Spanish nationalism, the other using Catalan nationalism. The vote at the Girona council showed clearly that the bourgeois is united above national flags when it comes to protecting the right to private property.
At the very last minute, as the eviction was about to go ahead and over 700 people were ready to resist it, a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights stopped it and declared a delay in the eviction until October 29. Of course, this victory is not due to the ECHR in Strasbourg, but is the victory of the hundreds of activists who mobilised on the ground and were prepared to take direct action to prevent the eviction. It gives the movement a temporary respite to gather its forces and increase the pressure through mass mobilisation.