Spanish radicals don’t take kindly to their local assembly centres being attacked by police on the orders of Government. But when the authorities tried to destroy such a centre in Barcelona that had been squatted for 17 years they did not realise the extent of the resistance that this would provoke. The centre survived, though there were 84 arrests. Now, after a failed legal appeal, the courts quashed all charges of three of those jailed and the others charged are expected to be released too. Meanwhile, the centre has been renewed and is flourishing. This is the story of what happened…
The attempted closure of the Can Vies squatted local assembly centre in Barcelona led to massive resistance and four days of street fighting. The authorities failed to evict the occupants, but in the aftermath 84 activists were arrested. Today the sentence that condemned three of those activists to 3.5 years in prison has been revoked once and for all and all convictions quashed.
The three were accused by police witnesses of throwing bottles from a rooftop. But, later, the alternative paper ‘Directa’ proved that the identification of the three was impossible as there was no clear vision of where that rooftop from where the police had been gathered.
Other sentences against the three have had to be curtailed to ensure that none of the accused serve prison time. All three are now at liberty. It is anticipated that sentences against all 84 who were arrested will also be quashed.
Can Vies is an occupied, assembly-run social centre (CSOA), set up alongside the railway tracks in a workers area of Barcelona. The centre was once a CNT (anarcho-syndicalist union) centre some 80 years back. The occupation of the centre has lasted 17 years, surviving multiple eviction attempts, due to strong local support.
As news of the eviction was circulated thousands of activists gathered in front of the building. After a stand-off the riot police broke through and the demolition of the centre began.
Then the unthinkable happened: many more from the local the community rushed to defend the centre. They took the streets and fought with the police. The battles lasted 4 days. Consequently the demolition of the centre was halted.
Matters escalated when 10,000 angry youths approached the Ramblas at midnight on the fourth day. The police then received an order to back off and not fire teargas in case the confrontation affected tourists. By then the police cordon around the partly demolished centre had been withdrawn. Suddenly, a demolition excavator went up in flames. Can Vies was then reoccupied.
The next day thousands arrived in party mood and so the rebuilding of the centre began. A human chain over 1km long was formed and rubble passed along it, delivering tons of it to the doorsteps of the local council offices!
Builders donated material, advice and labour; 90,000 euros were collected for the centre; all kinds of groups helped out in the renovations; a new cafe was built in the ruined part. Many activities in the centre are now in full swing, despite ongoing legal threats by the authorities.
The recent court ruling regarding the three was first made public in late March, but was appealed by the defense. Now the Provincial Court of Barcelona has revoked the prison sentence against the three and has absolved them of all charges.