dimarts, 28 d’abril de 2009

28th April: Occupations and Demonstration

Today a demonstration was held to demand moratoriums in the subjects that will be affected by the Bologna Process in the next academic year. In preparation, students held a series of occupations in the city.

Video of the actions in Santander Bank and the ERC headquarters

A series of occupations took place in Barcelona today with these demands:

1. Moratoriums in all the subjects that have been adapted to the EHEA in order to open up a debate process regarding the reforms.

2. The resignation of Josep Huguet, minister for Innovation, Universities and Business, because of his desire to privatise the university system.

3. Amnesty for all the students who have been expelled, disciplined, fined or charged.

The university students – supported by college students and mobilised unemployed people – occupied the headquarters of Banco Santander (the largest bank in Europe), the headquarters of ERC and PSC (Catalan Republican Left and Catalan Socialist Party, ruling parties in Catalonia) and the University Commission. These direct actions were in solidarity with everyone who is being exploited and ripped off by the government's new “bail-out” package for the banks, which will give even more money to the rich from the pockets of the poor.

The Santander occupation began at 11am, when a first group of 30 people entered the unsuspecting bank, shouting slogans such as: “Not banks, nor companies! Get out of our libraries!” and “Like this! Don't take one step back! Against Bologna: Direct action!”. Once inside, they hung a banner in the vestibule reading “You colonise our education; we occupy your headquarters”. The squatters then sat down and held a class with a lecturer who was present. The lecture was about how job precarity, enforced by the extreme capitalism we are currently suffering, turns the worker into a slave. The occupants invited the bank employees to sit and enjoy the lecture as well, but they were reluctant, probably because of their short-term contracts.

The class was followed by a group discussion and a second group arrived, taking over from those who had to go to work. A group also gathered outside the door to the building, hanging banners across the building and dealing with the media.

Inside posters were made from the bank's propaganda and the entire bank (including a show-car) was covered in the movement's stickers. One girl, dressed up as a corpse, laid down in front of the car with a sign declaring that the invasion of private interests into the higher education system kills the formation of critical thought. There was some excitement when a group of girls wanted to use the bank toilet but were stopped by security guards and cashiers, a group of people forced the door open and the squatters were able to use the toilets for the rest of their stay. This situation showed clearly that, although the banks and other capitalist institutions value money more than people, the power to challenge them is in our hands.

The bank closed at 2pm, and the occupiers were told by police officers that they were committing an offense by remaining. However, there was no eviction and the students decided to stay until the 6pm demonstration, at which point they left of their own accord.

Another group of students, together with some 20 transport workers, tried to occupy the PSC (Catalan Socialist Party, one of the ruling parties) headquarters at 12pm. They were stopped from entering by the building's defenses and the swift arrival of the police. Outside, manifestos were read by the workers and students, communicating their problems with the Catalan government. Later, the police tried to charge one student with breach of the peace, on the grounds that she was responsible for the action. In the face of this, those rallied outside the building started to pass around the megaphone, each person claiming that they were the one guilty of organising the activity and therefore preventing the charge. The event was ended after an hour as the transport workers had to go to work.

At the headquarters of the ERC (Catalan Republican Party, another of the ruling parties), a group managed to enter an inner courtyard and later, by fighting with the security guards, the front door. Once at the entrance, a group of five chained themselves to the building and the others circulated information about the action to the public. The students planned to continue this situation until the time came to join the demonstration, but were interrupted by a police eviction. Once outside the building, the thirty or so occupants made a mini-demonstration through Barcelona towards the other protesters, blocking roads with a banner as they went.

The demonstration was attended by 300 people. As usual, the police presence was totally out of proportion, 17 riot vans followed the march and 5 more were waiting by the road leading to the government buildings. At best, this was a pointless display of force, trying to intimidate a movement that has already shown that it cannot be stopped by repressive state brutality.

The protest ended outside the University Commission in the centre of the city. A group of students, who had chained themselves inside the building as part of an occupation, came out voluntarily to cheers from the crowd and a communiqué was read denouncing the privatisation process.

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