In Seville, Spain, Andalusian unionists face trial for liberating food

August 29, 2019

The following is an Aug. 22 news release from the Andalusian Workers Union (Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores − SAT − an anti-capitalist organization of rural and urban workers in the Andalusian Autonomous Community located in the south of Spain, home to 8.3 million people). At this time when another worldwide recession threatens, this story behind an upcoming trial reveals how a militant action by a workers’ organization can spark a broad struggle. Original article at Translation by John Catalinotto.

Twenty SAT militants will face a new trial on Sept. 5. The case pertains to the expropriation of food from a Mercadona shopping center in August 2012, seven years ago. The Public Prosecutor’s Office and Mercadona’s private prosecution have requested a total of 30 years in prison for all defendants, 18 months per person.

It is worth recalling the circumstances of the summer of 2012 in which SAT carried out a series of actions, including the expropriation of basic foodstuffs from a Carrefour supermarket in Arcos de la Frontera (Cadiz province) and from a Mercadona supermarket in Écija (Seville province).

Andalusia was then facing the hardest blows of the 2007-08 capitalist crisis, with 1.5 million unemployed people and 300,000 families with no income whatsoever. Dozens of home evictions occurred daily, and there were long lines at soup kitchens. Some 30 percent of our children could not afford adequate and necessary food.

Food discarded, as families go hungry

Meanwhile, 400,000 tons of food were thrown away. News stories opened with reports of risk premium [the amount of extra interest needed to obtain loans], interest rates and the possibility of a bailout for Spain. At the same time, they hid the news about families suffering during the five years of continuing economic crisis.

Within this framework, we from SAT initiated a mobilization campaign with the goal of bringing this bitter reality to the surface — so that there would be less talk about risk premiums and more about the needs of ordinary people.

It was also necessary to point out the culprits behind the crisis and explain that is why people occupied bank branches. At the same time that they protested the conditions, they planned possible solutions.

In July 2012, people occupied town halls and employment offices, demanding from both the central and autonomous regional governments a special employment plan that would create jobs in our villages. They also occupied Las Turquillas, an estate owned by the Ministry of Defense, for over 20 days, demanding that its 1,200 hectares [about 3,000 acres] be put to work and generate [agricultural] employment in the region. Months earlier, in March, they also occupied the Somonte public estate to prevent its privatization.

Feed the people!

With this mobilization program, people agreed to expropriate basic foodstuffs in order to draw public attention to the critical situation where thousands of families were suffering and going hungry in Andalusia.

This action was followed by the “Andalusia on Foot Marches” in August and September of 2012, which toured the eight provinces, connecting the rural population with the urban population and uniting the struggles of both. The food expropriations and marches generated an expanding wave that strengthened all the struggles, not only that of the SAT.

This wave of struggle led to the “Marches of Dignity” on March 22, 2014, which brought 1.5 million individuals, representing all the different peoples of the Spanish state, to Madrid. They demanded an end to the policies that made us pay for the crisis, when we had done nothing to cause the crisis.

We are being accused of theft. Normally, when someone steals, they try to profit from that theft. The basic foodstuffs, which had a minimum monetary value, were delivered freely and openly. The media were also present then in La Corrala Utopía, a block of flats that homeless, impoverished families had occupied for months.

The two expropriation actions were carried out simultaneously in the Carrefour supermarket in Arcos de la Frontera and the Mercadona supermarket in Écija. In neither case was there any violence. The food carts left quickly through the door without the security guards reacting in time to prevent the actions. In Arcos, Carrefour opted not to press charges and to take responsibility for the “delivery” of the food. Mercadona, on the other hand, brought charges accusing us of theft by force.

Since then, the situation for the people of Andalusia has changed little. Now unemployment is simply disguised as precarious employment. That means that thousands of working Andalusian families are poor, even though they have work contracts. This is because the bosses breach labor conventions and basic labor rights.

Twisted justice

However, it can be said that those expropriation actions put a spotlight on the reality that had been hidden for years, while millions of people suffered in silence.

That is why it is more necessary than ever that on Sept. 5 all the dignity and solidarity that remains are set in motion once more to defend those of us who are again facing the bosses’ justice.

It is twisted justice that imprisons day laborers and represses those who rebel, while freeing corrupt bankers and family members of the Bourbon monarchy.