Squatters evicted from ancient cultural centre in Macarena district
Fiona Flores Watson
A SWAMPY-style direct action brought central Sevilla to a standstill as police battled for two days to evict squatters who had buried themselves deep underground.
A further demonstration in support of the squatters caused a 15-kilometre tailback on the busy SE30 road, when protesters blocked the Quinto Centenario bridge.
The protests started after police began evictions in the ancient Casas Viejas building in the Macarena district of the city.
But the job was much harder than they imagined when two protesters locked themselves in a specially excavated cave deep underneath the building.
The two okupas, Iglesias Diaz, a 28-year-old geography lecturer, and Agustin Toranzo, 39 had spent two years digging the cave four metres beneath the house.
Each had attached themselves to a concrete block enclosed behind an armour-plated door, without food or water and with little ventilation.
It took police and firefighters 37 hours to release the pair, who had lived in the building for five years.
Both suffered severe oxygen deficiency and were taken to Virgen del Rocio hospital where they were kept under police guard.
They were charged with civil disobedience.
Four other squatters, who had chained themselves to the floor of the Centro Social Ocupado y Autogestionado (CSOA), were also evicted from the building.
There were serious scuffles between hundreds of sympathisers and more than 60 police officers.
Protesters argued the CSOA had been a popular cultural centre for groups for many years, although other locals disapproved.
Toranzo later filed an official complaint against the police and fire service, citing the “physical and psychological torture” he claims he suffered during the arrest.
He claims that abuse was recorded by video cameras hidden in the house, evidence which, under their lawyers’advice, would be kept until a trial.
The police in turn implied the two men had links with Eta, as their tunnel bore similarities to those built by the Basque separatist group, and because documents in Euskadi (the Basque language) were found inside the house.
Jose Garcia, a spokesman for Casas Viejas, described these claims as “outrageous and despicable.”
He added the group would sue for libel and damages.
Green Party Congress representative for Sevilla, Francisco Garrido, asked in Parliament how the police “could make such serious accusations without proof.”
The building is owned by religious order the Comunidad de Bienes Hermanos Bordas Marrodán, which asked the police to evict the squatters.
It is due to be converted into residential accommodation and a community centre.
The residents’ association of Pumarejo-San Luis, which supported the eviction, claims plans are under discussion with the Junta de Andalucía regional government and Sevilla City Hall to convert part of the building into a day care centre for the elderly, a nursery, a tourist information office and car park.