2011-07-15 Two hours and 40 people to stop an eviction in #Spain #europeanrevolution #viviendadigna #15M

Originally published in Spanish, by Periodismo Humano.

Written by Patricia Simon. Photographs by Javier Bauluz.

Police trying to enter the building about to be evicted.

The 15M movement of Gijón (in the north of Spain) had called for a gathering on July 7th in front of some of the city's banks to protest for their "greed and responsibility in the crisis we are living", as one of the participants stated. At that same time, Ángel T.P. was heading for the the city's court to see if his petition to delay the eviction from his house had been accepted. The eviction had been set for midday by another court, so that very morning, when he found no answer to his petition, he went with little hope to one of the permanent information points set up by the movement in front of the Town Hall. Thanks to social networking and the coincidence that a protest was being held at exactly the same time, merely one hour later 40 people were occupying the stairway of his building, stopping an eviction for the first time in Asturias.

Ángel lives in a house being reclaimed by Banco Pastor together with his wife and two children (10 and 19 years old respectively). He says that economic problems started a year ago, when he lost his job and was unable to pay the monthly fees of the 108 thousand euro mortgage he signed, and that, with all added expenditures, went up to 180 thousand. His house was auctioned but, as tens of thousands of homes in Spain, was taken up by the bank as there was no buyer. However, without going into detail, he explains that in the last weeks he has managed to rack up part of the money and deposit it into his account, only to find that the bank was no longer interested in stopping his eviction.

Two members of the 15M in Gijón listening to the representative of Banco Pastor and to the spokesman of the local police.

The committee waiting on the steps was a big surprise to the bank's representative, as well as the locksmith - hired to change the lock after the family had been kicked out- and the local police that accompanied them. Soon after their arrival, police reinforcements appeared in vans.

After some minutes of negotiation, in which the local police demanded that they be let into the building to talk with the proprietors, it was finally Ángel who, from a distance of about two meters, heard for himself how the policeman said that "for today the eviction is suspended, but the problem is still there". Adding that he "should find a better solution to this affair". The applause echoed in the stairs and the hugs flowered under the amazed looks of the participants, who could not believe how easy it had been. All these men and women are starting to get to know each other, after so many protests and gatherings. But they come from very different backgrounds, from different professions, areas of interest and even cities. Now they speak among themselves, they say goodbye like friends, until the next one. Because they have already cried: "We will also stop the next one".

Miguel Ángel, in charge of the 15M's local eviction platform, created that very morning, explained visibly touched that after the temporary cancellation of the judicial order, that they already are planning to stop another eviction that will take place in the following weeks. "It's a different case", he explains, "one of real-estate mobbing. An old woman and her daughter, the last inhabitants of a building bought by a building company that plans to evict them to tear down the place and build a new one". While he talks with us, many other journalists from different places give him their contact information, and he sighs trying to assimilate that thanks to them a family has a home to live in. At least, for one day.

The month of the rebellion against evictions

On the 15th of June, the movement that had been born one month before, joined the Platform of Citizens Affected by Mortgages (PAH in Spanish) to stop, for the first time, an eviction in Madrid as part of their expansion strategy after leaving Puerta del Sol. Hundreds of people met in front of the building of Anuar, originally a Lebanese citizen that had had to close his bakery because of the crisis, and had ended up drowning between the mortgage and the loan he had accepted from his bank. The eviction was adjourned and the phenomenon took off. Twenty days later, Anuar has not received any new communication from his bank. Both him as Chema Ruiz, member of PAH in Madrid, are confident that the eviction order will not be reactivated until after summer. Meanwhile, the petition filed y Anuar against the bank's will is running it's course. At the same time they are working to get Social Services to find them a free home sponsored by the Government. Anuar is clearly overwhelmed when, over the phone, he tells us what he felt the day hundreds of people helped him stay in his home. "Before that day I was very depressed… but it is thanks to all of them that we are still here. Let's see if more people come for our help (referring to the platform) and we manage to solve this problem". Anuar participates actively in other acts organized by the PAH.

The number of families that have lost their residence because of eviction processes reached record high figures during the first three months of this year. More than 15.000 family lost their home, 36.3% more than the same period last year. The web Periodismo humano, did a great job reporting how the movement started in Barcelona by the hand of a group of citizens that were witnessing how the effects of the financial and labor crisis in Spain, where 5 million people are unemployed, was making it impossible for thousands of families to pay for the extremely expensive mortgages they had signed during the years of the real-estate bubble. Until the 15th of June, the Platform had managed to stop a dozen of evictions in Catalunya. From the moment the 15M assumed their role in this battle, 50 more evictions have been stopped, more than two per day. And not only people that can't pay their mortgage have been helped, also victims of real-estate mobbing and families that have occupied empty government sponsored houses, like what happened in Seville this week.

Giving the house in exchange of the debt or substituting the mortgage fees for a monthly rent closer to the person's income, two of the proposals made by the Platform from the beginning, have already been accepted in the last two paralyzed evictions in Madrid. At the same time, however, the president of the Supreme Court of Madrid, Francisco Javier Vieira, has declared himself worried saying that they have to "find ways to stop the blocking of our sentences". Even though he assumed that "we have to find formulas for the families, to reduce injustice". Many people participating in these actions are worried by the kind of politics that could be adopted in September.

Meanwhile, each day more evictions are being stopped, and even more are being planned. The method employed is practically fail proof: block the access to the house via the physical presence of people in front of it, always in a peaceful manner. As the Gijon case proves, you don't even need a large mass of people, nor time for organizing, nor coordination with other platforms. You only have to be there when a call for help comes.

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