Crisis and Conflict in Barcelona: January

Police attack free abortion counterdemonstrators on January 25
Free abortion

An overview of austerity measures and popular responses in Barcelona, with descriptions of January actions

Submitted by Petar Mandzhukov on February 1, 2012

What follows are several translations of action communiques from Barcelona. One year ago, the major unions sealed the fate of the welfare state when they announced they would sign off on the labor reform that would cut pensions, push back the retirement age, slash worker and unemployed benefits, make it easier for employers to fire their workers, and increase precarity in general. Since then, the new conservative governments in Catalunya and in Spain have:
-changed the Spanish Constitution to make budget austerity mandatory
-gave riot police more leeway in carrying out home mortgage and repo evictions (in direct response to increasingly fierce resistance)
-required major public sector funding cuts that will decrease the quality of service and leave tens of thousands more people out of work or with precarious contracts and lower pay
-aggressively prosecuted dozens of people for taking part in aggressive protests against politicians or actions designed to stop evictions
-drastically increased the hiring and equipment expenditures of police and private security
-instituted major cutbacks to, and begun the privatization of, the Catalan healthcare system, which had been completely socialized and, by capitalist standards, high-quality.

As if all that weren't enough, in the last month the Barcelona metropolitan transport company announced service cutbacks and a major price hike to 2 euros a ride for bus and metro (from 1.40).

Early in the month a number of attacks were carried out in response to the transportation price hikes and a death in the immigrant detention center.
Since then, the system of extralegal immigrant prisons has come under heavy fire, several users' transport strikes have been organized, and a transportation workers' strike has been announced for next month.

On the 15th of January, about a hundred people gathered in Plaza Catalunya to protest the new public transportation costs. They went down into the metro and opened the gates so everyone could ride for free.

On the 17th of January, there was a second users' strike, one week after the first, boycotting public transport. The next day, on the 18th, “antiauthoritarians” carried out simultaneous sabotages in three different metro stations: Clot, Sant Andreu, and Mercat Nou. According to the communiques, they entered each of the three stations during the morning rush hour, disabled the security cameras, blocked open the gates or painted over the sensors so they remained open, sabotaged the ticket validation machines with foam or other means, painted over or smashed the screens of the ticket vending machines, spraypainted slogans on the walls, and handed out flyers calling on people to ride for free and explaining the reasons for the action. Many passersby responded favorably to the actions.

Arson against the rich
Anonymous Communique from Indymedia, translated from Catalan
On Tuesday 24 January we carried out an attack against the elite social club Arsenal, situated in the rich neighborhood Bonanova. By burning the circuit box of the electrical installation, we sabotaged the functioning the normal functioning of the well known center and damaged them economically.

This attack forms a part of our offensive against the neoliberal policies that are worsening the living conditions of the popular classes. It is in the social centers of the bourgeoisie, such as the Arsenal club, where the political and economic leaders of the country enjoy their luxury, make contacts and close the deals that continue to trample our most basic human needs.

While the common neighborhoods breathe in misery and anxiety, there can be no peace in the rich neighborhoods. For this reason, we call for the mobilizations, the assemblies, and the campaigns of social struggle to be complemented with attacks directed against the bourgeois zones of the city. If they are too far away to hear the cry of protest from the working class, we will carry it to their houses, right up to their own windows. Until they have to explain to their children what they are doing to the people.

Blockade against anti-abortion protestors
On the 25th of January, feminists, anarchists, and the social assemblies of two neighborhoods, Eixample Dreta and Clot-Camp de l'Arpa, convened to block an anti-abortion protest called for by an ultra-Catholic group. With the chants, “We'll decide about our own bodies”, “Fascists out of the neighborhood,” “Maria should have aborted,” and “Your kids abort, they just don't tell you,” nearly two hundred feminists and others blocked the street to prevent the anti-abortionists from marching from Hospital Sant Pau, where they convened, to the Sagrada Familia cathedral. A heavy detachment of riot police pushed the counterprotestors back. Finally, just before Sagrada Familia, there were heavier scuffles as the feminists and anarchists assailed the fascists with eggs, bottles, and trash. The police charged, beating a number of people, and in response the counterprotestors flipped several dumpsters and seized a major intersection. The anti-abortionists finished their vigil in front of the cathedral surrounded by riot police, and quietly dispersed.