Barcelona: this week's battle to occupy Banc Expropriat

Tony Gosling tony at
Wed Jun 1 18:35:47 BST 2016

Barcelona: the battle for the Banc Expropriat goes on, a week in the streets
29, 2016 <>NEWS

Last Monday, the Catalan riot police (Mossos 
d’Esquadra) evicted El Banc Expropriat, a 
long-running squat and neighbourhood hub in the 
Gracia area of Barcelona. Demos and street 
clashes have continued all week (the latest going 
on as we write today) as thousands of people try 
to retake the building, which is now guarded by 
welded steel shutters and several hundred 
robocops. El Banc Expropriat of Gracia is the 
longest standing and best known of several former 
banks occupied in Barcelona since the financial 
crisis, and has become a focal point of local resistance and struggle.

In May 2014, the eviction of 
<>Can Vies 
squat in the Sants area led to a week of rioting 
into the city centre, and a massive show of 
support from the neighbourhoods and beyond, 
causing the city government to back down and 
return the building to the people. Fearing a 
repeat of this rebellion, the then mayor of 
Xavier Trias made a behind-the-scenes deal with 
the owner of the Banc Expropriat building (a 
property speculator called Manuel Bravo Solano) 
in which the City Council paid up 5000 euros a month in rent.

One year ago, Dias was replaced as mayor by Ada 
Colau of the new “Barcelona en Comú” party, an 
electoral project which emerged from the 
grassroots movements growing in Barcelona and 
other cities following the crisis. “People’s 
mayor” Colau is herself a well-known housing 
activist, anti-eviction campaigner and darling of 
the radical left. Colau ended the secret rent 
payments on the Banc Expropriat and, when the 
owners then called in the Mossos to evict, 
declared the eviction a “private matter” out of 
her hands. She has also made statements 
condemning “violence” from people defending the 
social centre. Colau offered to arrange an 
alternative state-approved building, to which the Banc Expropriat responds:

“We do not want another space, we want this one, 
where it is, with its neighbors. El Banc is ours 
because we have constructed it second by second 
with all the people that has passed by and have 
made it vibrate with hundreds of different 
experiences; El Banc is ours and we will defend it until the end.”

The eviction of El Banc Expropriat came less than 
3 weeks after the Barcelona authorities also 
evicted the migrant solidarity squat 
Mukkhayam. And on the very same day as those 
other friendly humanitarian leftists Syriza 
evicted Europe’s largest refugee camp in Idomeni, northern Greece.

Here is a very brief timeline of events so far 
this week. We repost below some translated 
communiques from El Banc Expropriat with much 
more detail. For more info and updates see the 
Expropriat website (in Catalan) and 
<> for English translations.

Monday 23 May. 
Expropriat evicted by riot cops in 10 hour 
operation. A demo was called for 8pm in the 
evening. Up to 2000 people came out in the 
evening, but the building was surrounded and 
guarded by robocops. Banks and other institutions 
of capitalist violence were smashed. In clashes 
that night, some 15 people are injured including 
rubber bullet wounds to the head.

Tuesday 24 May. 
night of demonstration and street fighting. 
Demonstrators managed this time to get to the 
building, get through the steel shutters and 
temporarily reoccupy. But then they were beaten 
back again by charges of the Mossos, in which 
another 19 people were injured. Around the 
neighbourhood, people also showed support by 
banging pots and pans from the balconies.

Wednesday 25 May. Third night of demonstration 
and street fighting. Again, the demo met at 8PM 
in Revolution Square and again attempted to 
re-take the bank. Again, they were beaten back by 
hundreds of Mossos who used baton charges, van 
charges, and rubber bullets amongst other tactics.

Sunday 29 May. Daytime demonstration now happening.


Yesterday, May 23th, El Banc Expropiat was 
evicted by the Catalan police, after more than 
160 days of resistance (more than 100 during the 
first campaign, and 87 days this time). The first 
time, the City Hall secretly decided to pay over 
65.000EUR to Manuel Bravo Solano, who owns the 
bank, in order to avoid another Can Vies before 
the municipal elections. After this shady deal 
was exposed, the City Hall justified itself 
saying that they believed that the Banc had an 
important “social” role. They then admitted that 
this rent was being paid to avoid breaking the 
social peace, because they knew that the eviction 
of El Banc would imply all sorts of responses. 
This is what finally happened yesterday. First of 
all, we would like to thank all the solidarity 
that we have received, a solidarity which has 
taken many different forms and that has also 
meant a form of support to all the other 
struggles which are currently taking place.

Yesterday’s outburst of rage is not only due to 
El Banc, it is a consequence of recent arrests, 
of raids on squats and libertarian spaces, of the 
assassination of Juan Andrés Benítez that exposed police impunity.

We understand that some neighbours are annoyed 
because of the situation that the neighbourhood 
is going through, or the physical damages that 
might have suffered. But, as we’ve said many 
times, we will defend the Banc in every single way we can.

Anyone who has seen the police interventions can 
attest the violence that they have produced. Over 
50 people have ended up with broken heads, knees, 
hands or arms as a result of their actions. This 
is another reason to stay where we are and try to get back to the Banc.

We will return to the Banc.

Solidarity actions can be sent to elbanc [at] 
riseup [dot] net or to the squat’s page 
“<>With Love“

No 2, 26 May.

[May26] These days are being very intense and 
this is why we’re having difficulties to spread 
informations as a collective. Within our 
capacities, we will add more detail to our 
version of the facts of these last few days and 
also our opinion on many aspects of the conflict that is taking place.

First of all, we would like to thank all the 
people that moved from solidarity to explicit 
engagement with the project of El Banc Expropiat.

Many of you are asking in which ways they can 
contribute to this struggle, ranging from 
neighbours of Gràcia that are getting in touch 
with us to people from elsewhere, sometimes 
writing from places so far away as the combative 
neighbourhood of Gamonal, in Burgos.

Here’s some ideas for you:
    * Convoke all sorts of protests that could 
pressure those responsible of this conflict, 
grant more visibility to what El Banc Expropiat 
is or to what is happening these last few days in Vila de Gràcia.
    * Hang banderoles, banners, or posters to 
your balconies or windows in support to El Banc Expropiat.
    * Spread the information we publish with your nearest relational circles.
    * Participate in the pot-banging actions that 
are taking place are 22h from your balcony, your window or the nearest square.
    * Send us all the informations, images and 
videos that you consider that could be useful to us.

Who is behind this eviction?
    * Catalunya Caixa: this bailed-out bank (now 
absorbed by BBVA) was the owner of the space when 
we squatted it. If they hadn’t started the legal 
process to evict us, we probably would not be here today.
    * Manuel Bravo Solano: this individual is the 
responsible behind the current obscure network of 
real estate companies dedicated to speculation 
that legally own the space. Companies like this 
and people like him are responsible of the 
gentrification process that we are suffering in Gràcia.
    * Mossos d’Esquadra: we won’t be fooled, the 
violent interventions of the police are not being 
a response to the violent actions of the people 
that are protesting. It became self-evident the 
second day that the goal of the police is not to 
prevent disturbances, but instead to prevent us 
from re-opening El Banc Expropiat. When we manage 
to enter our space it it will become obvious that 
the disturbances are taking place because of the 
eviction and the later interventions by the Mossos d’Esquadra.
    * Government of the Generalitat: The 
Government of Junts pel Sí (CDC and ERC) are the 
political responsibles that command the Mossos 
d’Esquadra. Of the Government of the Generalitat 
wanted to, the police would walk away, and if 
they do we will be able to re-open El Banc Expropiat.
    * Media: These actors would not have the 
strength they have if the media wasn’t acting as 
a amplifier of their messages. The media 
manipulation of these last few days is becoming 
quite obvious, not only because some old footages 
of disturbances were used, or the desperate 
attempt of the journalists to find neighbours who 
talk badly about El Banc Expropiat, but also 
because of the complete silencing of police 
violence, notwithstanding the images, videos and 
testimonies that circulate through social 
networks in very significant terms. The fact that 
we don’t do press conferences doesn’t mean that 
the press does not have access to the huge amount 
of information that refutes many of the lies that 
individuals such as Batlle or Collboni [local TV journalists] are spreading.

Each of these actors have their share of 
responsibility in the conflict that we are 
suffering, and for this reason we invite everyone 
to make their role visible and to pressure them to change their attitude.

Stay tuned for more information

May 26th of 2016
Vila de Gràcia

No 3, 27 May. We’ll try to enter again.

Whatever might be said by the City Council about 
this conflict, it does not take place between 
private parts, it is a conflict between two ways 
of living: those who want a common life and to 
relate through mutual support networks, produced 
among equals, and those who defend private 
property – regardless of its use – and the supremacy of some over others.

Barcelona en Comú is not and will not be a 
representative of those of us who have been here 
these days, first because we do not have 
representatives – and simultaneously do not 
aspire to represent anyone but ourselves – and 
secondly because their institutional choice is 
not and will not be our’s neither. We refuse to 
serve as an excuse for the various political 
parties, that have been throwing electioneering 
darts between themselves, while spreading lies 
about us. We have never negotiated with no one, 
regardless of the untruths spread by politicians: 
those who signed a contract to maintain social 
peace – CiU –, paid over €65,000 of an 
unjustified fund to the well-known speculator 
Bravo Manuel Solano, an amount that almost fully 
covers for the buying cost paid by him for our space.

They justify this contract by appealing to our 
alleged social work, trying to build a 
distinction between the Bank and other occupied 
spaces, but do not be mistaken: we are the same 
people. We do not do social and humanitarian 
work, what we strive for is the generation of 
networks of mutual support and the creation of a 
world exterior to the mercantile logic. We do not 
want to cover up the holes of misery that 
capitalism created, we want to put an end to 
them. And, to achieve this, all tools are valid and necessary.

Those that are weaving networks, those that 
retrieve houses for those who suffer evictions, 
those that occupy to create homes and meeting 
spaces, those that make parties and other 
activities to pay all the costs of judicial 
repression, those that cut off streets so that 
popular protests can advance, those that face up 
to the police: we are all the same because these 
are different paths of a common struggle.

There has been a lot of talking about violence, 
our’s to be more precise, but whoever pretends to 
criticize all forms of violence is refusing to 
recognize that this society is impregnated with 
violence in its very foundations: the violence 
that occurs over evictions, the violence of the 
homicidal Mossos that remain unpunished, the 
violence of the persecution of street-sellers and 
of the rejection of refugees, but also the 
violence that, beneath the unquestionable excuse 
of anti-terrorism, shatters the doors of our 
homes at five in the morning, and kidnaps our 
companions. If someone really wants to talk about 
violence, let’s talk about it, but basing 
ourselves on the fact that if the inequalities of 
this society do not disappear, it’s because there 
is an organization specialized in acting 
violently in order to maintain them. This 
organization is called the police, whatever the 
country, the color of its uniform, or the government who commands it.

The police is the visible and explicit part of 
this structural violence. But this violence can 
also be found in blackmailing in the workplace, 
when we accept to be humiliated and robed out of 
fear of misery; it can be found – as we already 
noted – in foreclosures, when home ownership is 
more important than the necessity of a roof; it 
is found in the sexism that denies the feminicide 
that is taking place; it takes place in this 
Europe that turns its back on the refugees of the 
wars that were caused by our own countries. This 
capitalist society is based on violence, any 
serious discussion must start from this premise.

The conflict over El Banc Expropiat, that is 
taking place in the streets, has begun when we 
got evicted, and it will finish once we get back 
in. We have nothing to negotiate because we do 
not aspire to anything else than reopening the 
Banc Expropriat at the same location where it 
always has been; if they want to negotiate, they 
can do it among themselves, Generalitat, City 
Council and Solano Bravo. It is not our problem. 
We do not want another space, we want this one, 
where it is, with its neighbors. El Banc is ours 
because we have constructed it second by second 
with all the people that has passed by and have 
made it vibrate with hundreds of different 
experiences; El Banc is ours and we will defend it until the end.

It’s quite simple: the only solution to the 
conflict they have opened is to let us back in.

May 27, 2016
Vila de Gràcia

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