Barcelona student strike against austerity met with police violence

c/o Lluis Gene

A report for libcom.org from Barcelona, as thousands of young people march in cities across Spain to protest austerity measures for the 29F: Vaga General d'Universitats

Today's demonstration, or as it was labelled here in Catalunya, a student strike, was held for a combination of reasons around university staff pay and conditions, general concerns about the privatisation of education, and in solidarity with the Valencian students who had recently been brutally attacked by the boys in blue for the temerity to demand the heating to be turned on when it was freezing cold. Police violence had been a recurring theme in discussions and placards at the protest. There were various chants about the state of Spain no longer being a democracy, or that the current government was fascist. While it is easy to dismiss these claims, as Spain is clearly not fascist, it is nevertheless disconcerting for a people only 30 years away from a genuine fascist government to see an increasingly aggressive police and government presence on campuses and in neighbourhoods.

The demonstration started quietly, in contrast with many protests in Catalunya. There was an absence of the normally ubiquitous drumming groups and snappy chants about the politicians not representing us like they should. Instead, chants and placards focused around demands for quality public education, and in derision of the police and the banks. At any rate the march, maybe 30,000 strong at an uneducated guess, wended its way peacefully around the streets until reaching the Catalan stock exchange and a branch of Banco Popular.

The Police were sat in vans outside the stock exchange, but stayed passive only 10 feet away while a series of missiles and paving stones and finally a rush of masked comrades stormed the doors of the Banco Popular, forcing their way in. After this had happened, a surge of police vans came through two streets with riot cops fully kitted out. Although they didn't try and kettle, they didn't mind using their sticks. From then on, it was cat and mouse through the streets as the tail end of the demonstration scrapped with the Mossos D'Esquadra (Catalan boot boy police). The marchers would erect barricades, often setting them on fire, before retreating in the face of police charges and what seemed to me like some extremely reckless driving from police vans that could easily have landed some demonstrators in hospital.

This tit for tat pattern was repeated until the demonstration returned to Placa Universitat, where the Mossos continued to harass all demonstrators, whether or not they were at all implicated in any of the direct action at the banks. As mentioned previously they weren't shy about swinging the truncheons, and this observer saw more than one peaceful protester clubbed by a frustrated copper, probably boiling in his daft riot gear after chasing kids around all day with his mates. After a time, a fire engine arrived and in an undoubted highlight of the day it was applauded as it made it way through the crowd to a fire. It was genuinely inspiring to see demonstrators who had been united in resistance to the police aggression changing mood so suddenly to one of co-operation with the fire brigade which, in contrast to the police, is a vital public service threatened by austerity measures.

At the time of writing, word on the street is that many more actions have taken place in various parts of the city, on the metros, at radio stations and at the 'Mobile World Congress', a ghastly business function that is closing down parts of the city while it is on. Many of these actions and protests will be ongoing as this is sent in, all I can say is keep checking the Spanish and Catalan news outlets for more news, there will surely be more as the Mossos and the demonstrators continue to scrap late into the night.

Sergio

Photo from this gallery with brilliant images from the day

Posted By

Ramona
Feb 29 2012 18:48

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Molina
Feb 29 2012 20:01

here is a video, it's in catalan but you can still see what went down: http://www.btv.cat/btvnoticies/2012/02/29/vaga-universitats-protesta-retallades/