The Eviction of the Expropriated Bank

Gracia then and now2

A strange routine developed in the Gràcia district of Barcelona this week. For three consecutive nights a crowd of people, mostly young but some old, gathered in one of the many squares that litter the neighbourhood.  Once critical mass was reached they marched towards the Banc Expropriat, a social centre located in the premises of a former bank.  The building is currently covered in metal sheeting following an eviction carried out by a large force of the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan regional police) on Monday afternoon.

Upon reaching the bank attempts were made by the protesters to re-occupy the building. This in turn prompted the arrival of the Mossos who set about repelling them using batons, police vans, and ‘foam’ bullets. With the back-up of a police helicopter the neighbourhood was then put under lockdown.

The Banc Expropriat has been squatted since 2011, providing volunteer run social services and cultural events for the neighbourhood. These ranged from language lessons to a free shop and library.  Following similar disturbances in the Sants neighbourhood in 2014, the right-wing former mayor Xavier Trias made a clandestine deal to pay rent to the sites legal owner. This was unbeknownst to the squatters and was solely to maintain ‘social peace’ during what was an election year.

Despite this manoeuvre, Barcelona en Comú, the grouping headed by former housing activist Ada Colau, came to power in the local elections of 2015. Her administration refused to continue to use public funds to pay off the property speculator who owns the site. This was a decision that eventually resulted in last Monday’s eviction by police under the control of the Catalan regional administration.  The timing of the eviction couldn’t have come at a more politically embarrassing moment for Ada Colau, exactly a year after the local elections that brought her to power.

However, it has proven the fallout has also hit the former mayor Trias, who is now facing an investigation for embezzlement related to his dodgy deal.

The protesters have been criticised by the media for the damage to property that has occurred; windows of banks and chain stores have been smashed, a car overturned, and bins transformed into burning barricades.  However, it is apparent they can rely upon a considerable amount of support from the neighbourhood.  As the demonstrations unfold on the ground, residents stand on their balconies banging pots and pans to show their solidarity.

This is an indication of how social centres such as the Banc Expropriat epitomise a major struggle in the city – the fightback against a largely tourist driven gentrification pricing people out of their own areas such as Gràcia.

This neighbourhood has been a vanguard of the gentrification that has transformed the face of the city.  The increases in rents and the opening of chain stores have changed greatly what was once a working class district. However, it still has a rich history of resistance that the squatters and supporters of the Banc Expropriat have appealed to.

Gracia then and now

Barricade in Gracia during the ‘Tragic Week’ of 1909

The protesters have several events planned for this weekend, including an public lunch this afternoon. Whether they will be successful in reclaiming the centre is uncertain. It is clear however that the fate of the neighbourhoods of Barcelona will continue to be contested.

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The mystical divide between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil

A concerted effort is being made since last Friday’s election to lecture us on the s2badeggsignificant differences between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.  The herculean effort to assure us of the gulf between the two is being made by politician and embedded political correspondent alike.  Today’s article by Stephen Collins is a classic of the genre, relying on Jackie Healy Rae’s declaration on the difference being that;

‘Them that know don’t need to ask and them that ask will never know’

However, such argumentation of mystical or even in one case genetic divides are all clear cases of sleight of hand.  Such things if true hardly form an insurmountable barrier to coalition, or even coalescence which seems to be the true fear of these party hacks and their ‘disinterested’ observers.

One doesn’t even have to leave the island to find examples showing this is the case. You merely need to point to the previous coalition governments of Fine Gael and Labour or between Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. The cultural gulfs between these parties couldn’t be lesser than that of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

There are also examples of coalescence, with Democratic Left and Labour finding it fairly easy enough to join forces despite years of rivalry.

All the same it has to be said that the greatest example of coalition between two parties with widely differing cultures can be found just a little bit further north of Dublin in Belfast. Surely if the DUP and Sinn Féin can work together, after decades of bitter conflict, it should be childsplay for these two centre-right parties with rural and urban bases to find common ground.

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5 Practical Things You Can Do About the Refugee Crisis From Ireland


**updated 11.49 4/9/2015**

At this point everyone has seen the shocking images of Syrians, Afghans and other refugees suffering great hardship and even dying for the chance to reach safety in the European Union. The response of the Irish Government has been disgraceful so far, offering only to take in 600 refugees. This needs to change

Taking my cue from this effort from the UK Independent earlier here’s a version for Ireland. These are 5 things you can do to in the fight to ensure refugees get treated with the respect they deserve

 1) Petition the Government

The civil society organisation Uplift has a petition aimed at Enda Kenny calling on him to give shelter to refugees in Ireland.

Sign the petition here

Even better you can contact your local representatives by email, letter or phone and let them know what you think about their lack of action. Find the details of your local TD on 

2) Donate

Theres currently some groups around Ireland gathering donations of money, clothes and other forms of supplies for the refugees in Calais.

Dublin Calais Refugee Solidarity

Cork Calais Refugee Solidarity

Northern Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity

You can also follow the example of people in Iceland and Germany and offer to host  refugees on Uplift’s site.

Pledge a Bed

Heres a list of charities working to help with the crisis as provided by the UK Independent.

Save the Children: distributing essential items such as diapers, hygiene kits and food

Red Cross Europe: providing emergency health services at central train stations

Migrant Offshore Aid Station: dedicated to preventing migrant deaths at sea

International Rescue Committee:  improving living conditions by setting up camps

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR): providing water, mosquito nets, tents, healthcare

Refugee Action: advice about claiming asylum, the asylum process, asylum support

World Vision: providing food, water, shelter, education and psychosocial care

Via Jim in the comments

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) are patrolling the Med in 3 Search & Rescue vessels and have so far this year rescued nearly 15,000 people!!


There are plans under way to organise protests to put more pressure on the Irish Government. The first of which takes place this Saturday the 5th of September  in Dublin with a day of action on behalf of refugees. There is also an action in Limerick.

There are also plans for a demonstration to coincide with an International day of action on this issue on the 12th of September.

4) Volunteer

There are several groups in Ireland working on behalf of refugees both inside and outside the country. Here’s some of them

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland

Irish Refugee Council

Doras Luimní (Limerick)

Anti Racist Network

NASC the Irish Immigrant Support Center  (Cork)

5) Support the Campaign to End Direct Provision in Ireland

This latest crisis isn’t the first time Ireland has failed those fleeing war, torture and oppression. Thousands continue to languish in Ireland in the cruel system known as Direct Provision, which has already been called the Magdalene Laundries of our generation.

Many of the groups linked in the volunteer section are also working on this issue, but one of the most impressive is Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI). This group is led and organised by the victims of the DP system itself.


*This is a work in progress please feel free to leave further suggestions, corrections etc in the comments

**Racist trolling will be deleted so don’t bother.

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