Remembering a Barcelona February

Soy mi destino, mi tiempo, mi camino,
mi gran amor, mi guerrera y mi poeta.
Soy la caída, la bajada en picado a los infiernos,
el dolor, el amor, la esperanza.
Soy mi memoria, mi esencia y mi existencia.
Soy realidad y sueño, mi propia ficción…

Patricia Heras

We remember the violence of capitalist “urban renewal”/”gentrification”, or more correctly, appropriation of commons and repression of autonomy, in events of February, 2006, in Barcelona …

The uncovering of the Barcelona 4-F case
Published December 12, 2014, Freedom

On the 4th of February 2006 a squat party taking place in the centre of Barcelona attracted police attention, who stood outside requesting IDs, in a similar fashion as the Met would stop and search in London. What would seem like a relatively common interaction between squatters and coppers became one of the worst cases of police brutality and cover-up in Spain’s recent history. During the squat party there were nine arrests. The next day the then-Mayor of Barcelona, Joan Clos, stated to the press that a police officer had been wounded by a plant pot thrown from the balcony of the building. The police officer ended up tetraplegic. The version of events changed a few days later to say the officer had been wounded by a stone thrown outside of the squat, which suited the narrative to charge Rodrigo Lanza, a young Chilean, and two others. Patricia Heras was cycling that night and had an accident in a different area. She was taken by ambulance to the same hospital as the police officer. Due to her appearance – punk/squatter – she was also charged with assaulting a police officer and throwing a fence at him.During the trial two police officers, Victor Bayona and Bakari Samyang, testified against the defendants. Up to four forensic specialists contradicted the police’s version, saying it was impossible that a stone thrown from that angle would have caused the injuries to the police officer. The ambulance driver also testified that Patricia Heras had a cycling accident in a different location far from the squat.

In January 2008 the defendants were all convicted: Rodrigo was sentenced to four and a half years, his two friends received three years and three months, Patricia received three years and the other arrestees were given minor convictions.

Patricia committed suicide in April 2011, when she had a prison permit to visit her home.
Rodrigo and his mother Maria have leaded the campaign for justice for the 4-F defendants and promise they will go to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. Rodrigo was released in December 2012. He’d spent two years on remand, one year on bail and three more years in prison. He received sympathies from the other prisoners and was hated by the screws, however he always declined the favours offered if he pleaded guilty. When he appealed in June 2009, his sentence was incremented from four and a half to five years. Rodrigo will always remember the first words he heard when he encountered the police that unfortunate 4th of February: “los sudacas de mierda por aquí” (those fucking sudacas round here –sudacas is a racist slur against South Americans); Rodrigo immediately knew he wasn’t going to be treated lightly.

All the defendants were brutally tortured to try to make them confess for crimes they did not commit. However, when some of them tried to sue the judge dismissed the case, famously saying “one thousand more of you could come, but I’ll still believe the police”. The two police officers who testified, Victor Bayona and Bakari Samyang, were convicted in 2011 of torturing another man and perverting the course of justice. The two coppers were at a club in September 2006 when they started sexually harassing a woman. A man from Trinidad and Tobago, Yuri Jardine, told them to stop. The coppers responded by brutally beating him and planting drugs on him. “It’s clear that they weren’t such reliable witnesses”, Rodrigo’s lawyer said. This week their request for reprieve, supported by their union, was denied by the government and they now have 15 working days to voluntarily enter prison for two years and three months, wherever they choose.

Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza

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An article written in January 2015 on the occasion of the TV broadcast of a documentary film entitled “Ciutat Morta” (Dead City), about a spectacular case of police brutality and judicial malfeasance in Barcelona, discussing the “new repressive foundations of capitalist society” being laid in the “modern urban agglomerations” that are being turned into “enormous malls and theme parks” and “museums for tourists”, where a militarized urban police force is enforcing an authoritarian campaign of “zero tolerance” social cleansing against picketing strikers, immigrants, squatters, panhandlers and all “recalcitrant elements whose presence constitutes an annoyance for … shoppers and tourists”. (Libcom.org)

4F: Something Smells Rotten in Barcelona1 – Revista Argelaga

On January 17, 2015 Catalonian television broadcast, censored and after a year’s delay, the documentary film, “Ciutat Morta” [Dead City], which, despite the fact that it was shown on one of the less popular channels, nonetheless reached a large audience. The “citizenry” stopped looking the other way for a moment and beheld the Calvary endured by five innocent youths at the hands of lawless thugs and an arbitrary judicial system. The frame-up of 4F is not the only incident that has revealed the collusion between complicit politicians, police torturers and corrupt judges. Just think of 9F, the Raval case, the rubber bullet that destroyed Esther Quintana’s eye, the deaths of the actor Alfonso Bayard and the Romanian citizen Lucian Paduranu, the beating of the three Greek youths, or the recent Operation Pandora, only to mention the most sensational incidents. Nor is it the only incident in which the police have engaged in violence with total impunity, filed false reports and perjured themselves in court; and everyone knows, furthermore, that these cops are rewarded with pardons, promotions and other forms of compensation for the performance of such services.

Something smells rotten in Barcelona, but no one should be too shocked by this. The real scandal is not the false accusations, the gratuitous humiliations inflicted on the prisoners, or the criminal sadism of the “operational protocols” of the uniformed executioners; much less is it the complicity and cover-ups of the politicians, the coercion of witnesses, the disregard for evidence, or the kangaroo courts. What is really outrageous is that fact that this Kafkaesque universe is a normal part of civil life. Today, such conduct is normal, it is legitimized, because, for those responsible for these outrages, it is the only way to effectively assure the preservation of the established order on a citywide scale.

Revolts occur when the rulers lose all credibility and their authority inspires no respect among those whom they rule. It’s that simple. In such a situation, even if people obey out of habit, the “System” knows that it is fragile; it is not enough for it to possess a solid political and judicial institutional apparatus with which it can snuff out the least trace of independent life, for it also needs a domesticated public space where the wandering violinist, the autonomous party (which was not exactly the case at the “Anarco Peña Cultural”), the ineffablederive, and above all public freedom—that enthusiasm for talking, discussing, breathing and acting—are neither seen nor heard. The leaders perceive their unruly subjects as a threat, that is, as an “enemy” capable of infiltrating even the smallest unguarded breach in their defenses. The nature of this enemy is easy to discern merely by taking a look at the victims of police zeal: homeless people, immigrants, “squatter culture” youth, demonstrators, picketing strikers, and, generally, anyone who gets in the way of the mercenaries of “civic” order.

These figures of the public enemy have replaced those of the “malcontent”, the “atheist”, the “communist” or the “anarchist” that were used by Franco’s dictatorship to exorcize its opponents and justify an implacable repression. The particratic regime born from the mutually-agreed reconversion of the dictatorship did not change in the least the hostile relation between rulers and ruled; it neither abolished the punitive legislation of the Franco regime, nor did it purge its police and judicial apparatus. The “social threat” that it attributed to the “enemy”, was embodied in turn by the “terrorist”, the “drug trafficker”, the “repeat offender” and, finally, by those who are “anti-system”, thus legitimizing a regressive trend in legislation that abolished civil rights and allowed police harassment in the name of “democratic values” and “civil security”. Similarly, the dictatorship did the same thing in the name of “peace”, “religion” and “public order”. The partiocracy has not developed institutions that are capable of integrating social protest, nor has it created a situation in which the dissident collectives will allow themselves to be coopted or corrupted, which is why the social question—the human condition under a capitalist system that is undergoing constant restructuring—was contemplated from the perspective of the leaders as a question of order.

As always, police abuses preceded legislation, and the latter was drafted accordingly. And with astonishing ease, the partiocracy has gutted the liberal constitutionalist corpse in order to reproduce political-social conditions typical of authoritarian regimes. It has too many vulnerable points, and that is why it has to protect itself against a constantly reemerging enemy, so that when the latter does arise it does so in a terminally ill condition, like someone who is stricken with Hepatitis C. Indiscriminate police violence is actually the first step in a war against the subject population, in which any sign of dissent turns one into a “suspect”. And, as in any war, force is employed to annihilate the opponent, not to convince him of the inappropriateness of his behavior. In this field the State is always right: innocent victims are guilty of having been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The paradigm of the new repressive foundations of capitalist society is found in the modern urban agglomerations, which today serve to impress a way of life that is obedient to the imperatives of the economy and politics. Within them, there is no public space that could function as an agora; the domain of decision-making is sequestered in the hallways and offices of the powerful, outside of which “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must” (Thucydides). An elite composed of politicians, cultural promoters, bankers, construction firms, hotel owners and speculators, administers the conurbations as if they were businesses, setting in motion processes of “urban sprawl”, gentrification and the transformation of urban spaces into museums for tourists. The goal is none other than to transform them into exploitable spaces, like so many enormous malls and theme parks. Such a transformation requires not only major disruptions of neighborhoods with scarce resources, but the total control of the street and the expulsion, by all possible means, of those recalcitrant elements whose presence constitutes an annoyance for the new users of these areas, that is, the commercial artists, the shoppers and the tourists.

In this context of urban reorganization, the urban guard plays a hygienic role similar to that of the armed police of the Franco regime: it has to cleanse these places of an undesirable, impoverished and out-of-control population, applying without any concern for civil rights the zero tolerance policies that are being imposed by restrictive municipal ordinances. In this way, rather minor phenomena like panhandlers, squatted buildings that host parties, and undocumented immigrants, by existing where they are not supposed to exist, become urban problems of the first magnitude. This is sufficient to explain the existence of police units of dubious legality such as the UPAS unit of the Urban Guard of Barcelona—composed of two hundred goons whose specialty is hunting down vagrants and young people who look like “punks” or “goths”, as well as violently dispersing unauthorized gatherings and parties. As a result, they obviously enjoy the unconditional support of the mayors and municipal councilmen, as well as the benevolent understanding of judges and prosecutors, which gives them a carte blanche for the commission of every kind of outrage.

This combination of police brutality, judicial connivance and political pandering, is nothing but the “system” which, originating in Catalonia, has been promoted as the “Barcelona model”, a pioneer in its field, whose rigor has provoked the admiration of all the urban elites of the Peninsula. The original model has given rise to imitators, but Barcelona is still the European capital of intolerance and abuse, a fact concerning which its politicians, its judges and its henchmen will undoubtedly feel proud.

The frame-up of 4F was not an exception, but rather one more aspect of the “System’s” modus operandi. That is why the attempt to revisit the affair, as carried out in the documentary film, “Ciutat Morta”, based on the sensationalistic media exploitation of the suffering of the victims and the existence of a “real” culprit, seems mistaken to us. Everyone knows who the culprit is: it is the “System” itself. It is the “System” that is the torturer, the frame-up artist, the corrupt judge. To ask it to admit its guilt, to offer some kind of moral compensation, or even to purge its institutions, would only serve to soothe the citizen’s bad conscience of the spectator, horrified by the everyday practices with which the guardians of the status quo guarantee the stability of his submissive way of life. Participating in the game of the communications media by asking for justice and truth from those who are by their very nature unjust and false will only benefit the System, which only needs to round up a few scapegoats to consolidate its legitimacy in the eyes of its acolytes and voters. That is not the way. Anyone who wants to find the way, only if he really wants to find it, only needs to look at everything that the frame-up sought to destroy.

Revista Argelaga
January 27, 2015

Translated in January-February 2015 from the original Spanish language text provided by the authors.

Original Spanish language text available online at Argelaga.

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We share below the documentary “Ciutat Morta”, with english subtitles …

8 June, 2013. 800 people enter an abandoned cinema in Barcelona to project a documentary film. The old building is renamed as “Cinema Patricia Heras” in honor of a girl who committed suicide two years earlier. But who is Patricia? Why she decided to commit suicide? How his death related to Barcelona? The answers to these questions are exactly what they want to publicize with this illegal and high media impact action: the truth about one of the worst cases of police corruption in Barcelona is known, in the dead city.

 

Ciutat Morta shows us the unbearable story of a profoundly rotten system that, in a Kafkaesque manner, reproduces its own rottenness. Because nothing can disturb the successful brand of the “open”, “friendly” and “inspiring” Barcelona that generates millions of euros every year. Because undesirable citizens are expendable and they should be controlled, silenced and served as warning to others who might dare to protest or be different within this (im)perfect city.

The film tells the sordid events that followed the detention of five young citizens on the night of 4 February, 2006 – known as 4F. That night, one cop gets seriously injured during a police intervention in an squatted municipal theatre located in the progressively gentrifying neighborhood of Sant Pere, in Barcelona’s historic city center. All evidence points to an object, likely a flower pot, that was thrown from the building.

The police stops nine people who were passing in the street. Three of them, Juan, Alex and Rodrigo, of South American origin, get arrested and are tortured multiple times. When taken to the hospital, the doctors ignore this reality and are professionally negligent – to the extent that one of the detainees is refused surgery and consequently sustains permanent injuries. In the courts they are silenced, their complaints rejected and they are even held under preemptive arrest for two years (see International Amnesty report, in Spanish).

Two other people are arrested that night, Patricia and Alfredo, who happen to be in the same hospital after a biking accident. Why? They had a “squatter” look, and that was enough for the police.

All were condemned for a crime they did not commit and knew nothing about. Evidence from their defence is rejected and only the testimony of two police agents is accepted as proof (several documents and reports about the process here, in Spanish). In the documentary, one of the defence lawyers claims that the facts and the results of the trial were preconceived. Everyone in the room was aware that the police testimonies were false. Nonetheless, all five ‘suspects’ were imprisoned for three to five years. When they appeal to the Supreme Court, their time is not shortened but extended, as if a punishment for complaining.

One of the people arrested in the hospital was Patricia Heras, nineteen years old at the time. A student of literature, she had a special sensitivity that was manifest in her poetry and queer aesthetic. This was her sin: being different. In one of her provisional releases from jail, she committed suicide. The injustice and precariousness of life was just unbearable for her.

A few years ago, two of the cops whose testimonies were central in the aforementioned sentencing were convicted of torture and manipulation of evidence in another case. They were sentenced to two years in jail. But the case 4F was never re-opened.

Corruption, racism, manipulation of evidence, partial trials, impunity from the police to the legal and administrative system. What for? Protection of political interests? Protection of an urban-tourism model to be imposed at any cost? Protection of a system that cannot assume its failures and deal with its consequences?

But a deeper question is left open in Ciutat Morta: how is it that in a city obsessed with its sanitized image and bringing down the squatting (“okupa”) movement, an occupied building owned by the City is left undisturbed to throw parties that last entire weekends? The possible answer: this is the best way to move ‘undesirable’ neighbors away, displacing them in order to continue and deepen urban real estate speculation.

The low-class and degraded neighborhood of San Pere was at the time protagonist of one important urban conflict with the City of Barcelona. Since the mid-1990s the residents had been struggling against the urban plans for this degraded area and calling for its renovation with the active engagement of the community. In the process, this conflict had a big repercussion in the entire city and gained wide popular support. You can read more about it by reading this article by Isabelle Anguelovski (2013) and the Observatorio Metropolitano de Barcelona research project (in Spanish).

(entitleblog: Barcelona, the dead city , Rita Calvário, December 8, 2014)

For continuing information regarding what in spain has come to be known as 4F, see Desmontaje 4F.  A further reflection on the events can also be found at Roarmag.

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