“One of the young people told me on one occasion, when I asked him how he was, that we should enjoy the fact that the train was finally passing under it, and that his would soon arrive.” Four years later, the ‘three young people on the tracks’ has arrived: this Thursday they will go to trial accused of a crime of public disorder for which they are asking for three years, and another crime of damage for which they are asking for another five, in addition to a fine of 133,750.26 euros for civil liability. The conversation with one of the defendants was held by Joaquín Sánchez, known as the ‘PAH priest’, one of the thousands of demonstrators who protested four years ago against the arrival of the Spanish High Speed Railway (AVE) without being buried, which threatened to divide the city of Murcia in two with a wall: “They called our children by phone, not by summons, and our ordeal began,” summarizes Resu, mother of one of the defendants for elDiario.es from the Region of Murcia.
The young people accused of destruction in the demonstrations that demanded the arrival of the underground AVE in Murcia ask for their acquittal
After years of waiting, those known as the accused will sit on the bench this Thursday. They were the only ones detained among the thousands of demonstrators who protested during the riots of October 3, 2017: one night in which the crowd set fire to several containers, tore down metal fences that protected the railway line, threw a catenary over the tracks to prevent the passage of trains, and destroyed part of the constructions aimed at installing the wall. “That night we were there with about two thousand people and, although it doesn’t help, we can attest that our children didn’t do anything,” says Plácido, father of one of the young people. Joaquín Sánchez also appears in the videos that the accusation has provided as evidence, “and along with him are thousands of people with their hands raised,” says the father.
The young people will ask for his acquittal, although Placido acknowledges that “the ways of the Lord are inscrutable, any kind of progress in solving this problem would be welcome.” He regrets that his son had to go to trial, and that both he and the other defendants had to undergo the nine-session judicial process: “A very tough situation, very stressful for all of us.”
“Without absolution there is no burial”
Despite the fact that the neighbors managed to get the AVE underground, the protests continue in the Murcian neighborhood of Santiago El Mayor. During the years prior to the trial, the Platform for Burial continues to demonstrate, this time for the acquittal of the accused. The last march took place on March 17, in which hundreds of people gathered at the old level crossing where the protests against the installation of the wall were concentrated, under the slogan “I was there and I am also innocent”. “The burial chapter will not be closed while entire families are without sleep because their children are going to go to trial,” they underline from the Platform.
The defendants, who were between 18 and 19 years old at the time of the protests, have now moved on with their lives, while they waited. During last week’s demonstration, the spokesman for the Pro-Underground Platform, Joaquín Contreras, said that “everyone” was at the demonstration on the night of the riots. “I hope that the suffering of these three young people who see their future as very dark and cannot carry out any vital project together with their parents, who are suffering the unspeakable, will end, and that an agreement can be reached before the trial,” said Joaquín Sanchez.
More than 40 years of fighting on the tracks
Under the slogan “The people above, the train below”, the claim to bury the railway dates back to the 1980s. The mayor at the time, the socialist José Méndez, commissioned a project to modernize the train station of the Carmen and an urban remodeling around it that included the surface station. It is at that moment when the first neighborhood movements begin that get the initiative to be withdrawn.
The beginning of the Government of Mariano Rajoy in 2011 was a step backwards in the claims of the roads. The conservatives decided that the AVE had to come to Murcia on the surface, and it would be seen when to bury it. The Platform decided to intensify its actions in the face of this attempt. One of its most massive demonstrations, in October 2017, managed to bring together more than 50,000 Murcian men and women who demanded, through the streets of the center of Murcia, the AVE underground.
The change of government through a motion of censure in 2018 led to the beginning of the end of the popular plans. The then delegate of the Government for Murcia, Diego Conesa, undertook to bury the tracks before the arrival of the high-speed trains in response to the clamor of the Murcian neighbors. Last March 2021, for the first time in 150 years, the residents of Santiago el Mayor crossed the level crossing without tracks.