Three years of judicial process, a prosecutor’s request for three years in prison and a trial of more than five hours for protesting against its owner. This is what two Barcelona tenants, Fran and Alpha, and their union spokesman, Jaime Palomera, have experienced, who this Monday sat on the defendants’ bench. Beyond verifying that the protest lasted less than six hours, that it did not cause damage or there was any threat or caused the identification of any of the conveners, the trial has revealed the deplorable state in which the Mas-Bella Fradera family he maintained the apartment that he rented to the two defendants, to the point that one of the relatives has recognized that there was a termite infestation.
“The protest was the last resort we had before going under a bridge,” said Alpha at the trial. And it is a single protest that has centered the trial: the demonstration of less than six hours in October 2018 that some thirty members of the Union held in an aesthetic center owned by the Mas-Bella Fradera, one of the wealthy families of Barcelona with interests in the cosmetic and real estate sector.
The conflict between property and tenants already came from before: first the Mas-Bella Fradera wanted to evict the couple claiming that a relative had to go live in the apartment, something that never happened, but finally the tenants managed to get the family to renew the rental contract thanks to its vulnerable situation. In the middle, many problems due to the poor condition of the building: termites, leaking pipes, floods that earned the family a 180,000 euro fine from the Barcelona City Council for property harassment and unhealthy homes.
In this context, the defense of the accused tries to refute the thesis of the Prosecutor’s Office and the family (which asks for less punishment than the Public Ministry). The key to the case is whether the judge appreciates violence or intimidation in the protest, something that the defendants have denied but that one of the daughters of the family who was in the beauty center has kept. On the other hand, one of the mossos d’esquadra who went to the aesthetic center has testified that the protest was “peaceful”. Although it affected the normal operation of the establishment, none of the participants in the protest made threats to clients or workers, he added. Point in favor of the defenses.
“Our objective with the protest was to be heard and make our state of vulnerability visible,” said Fran. Palomera has put forward the same thesis: “We managed to make a situation of abuse visible and for the large owners to take charge of it.” “We couldn’t open the windows because it was raining poop from the pipes, they have been threatening us for eight years, a floor was flooded twice … and on top of that they accused us of their problems,” Alpha has riveted.
An opposite view of the protest has shown one of the daughters of the family who was in the beauty center and who had an anxiety attack. “It was very intimidating, they shouted our names and said they would not move until someone in the family was there, I felt very intimidated and threatened,” he asserted. “There were two people who were a bit cocky, but not threatening,” summarized the deputy director of the aesthetic center, who has recounted an atmosphere of songs and music.
The trial against Alpha, Fran and Palomera has come just over a month after two other tenants, Juan and Livia, sat on the bench for protesting against the rent increase raised by their property and that is pending sentence. In its accusation brief, the Prosecutor’s Office considers that the tenants and Palomera incurred in a continuous crime of coercion and another of raiding the domicile of a legal person for the disclosure of their case on networks and three demonstrations before the family-owned beauty center , but in her questioning of witnesses and defendants, the prosecutor has asked only about the last of the protests.