Dozens of activists in Madrid occupied a three floor building for six families in need of a place to live in, some who have been previously evicted. The building is a property owned by bad bank SAREB, which receives toxic assets produced by Spanish lenders after the country's property market collapse in 2008. This is nothing brand new. Squatters and autonomous militants have been seizing buildings owned by bad banks and big corporate firms and turning them into community centers, and solidarity centers.
Gala Pin (32) says, sure, the occupations are illegal, but she doesn't much care...especially when such buioldings are turned over to people who have been evicted from their places by banks. She distinguishes this kind of takeover from typical squatter invasions. As reported in the Irish Times, she says,
“We are of course influenced by the squatter movement but there are two big differences: we always occupy buildings that belong to banks, or to big firms; and are always trying to negotiate with the owners in order to try to [pay] a social rent.”
“The law says it’s illegal but the platform practises civil disobedience only when there are no more alternatives. This is a tactic, a technique that has been used in the history of humanity for changing laws that were not fair. So maybe it’s illegal – but it doesn’t mean that it’s not legitimate.”
...she was tricked into signing the debt into her name. Her husband disappeared, Medina was evicted, her apartment was auctioned and she and her two children were left on the street while the bank pursued her for nearly €150,000, half the outstanding debt.
“It’s like you’re no one when this happens to you. You’re a piece of dirt when you go into the bank and ask for help. They call you and harass you day and night. You can’t live with dignity.”
In some cases the "Platform" has worked out deals with utility companies to retain power and water in occupied buildings, but not always.
There is talk among the residents here of how hooded electricians and plumbers swept into the building and worked rapidly and anonymously to ensure the utility supplies were secure – and then disappeared as quickly.
“It’s not that we’re stealing from our neighbours’ meters or anything,” says Burgues. “It’s from the general supply. The neighbours know this.”
And the "neighbors" are increasingly supportive of all these actions. The multitudes in Spain have been trying to create some common space in their country for a while now and in many different ways. These occupations are just one more example of what can be done when working people just decide to bypass the State and just do it.
The following report is from Autonomies.