Residents protest to halt Carabanchel prison’s demolition

27th October 2008, Comments 0 comments

More than 100 people gathered Sunday to prevent Franco's emblematic prison from being completely destroyed following the partial collapse of the building.

27 October 2008

MADRID - More than 100 people gathered Sunday inside a partially demolished prison in southern Madrid in a last-ditch effort to prevent one of most emblematic symbols of General Franco's dictatorship from being completely destroyed.

The peaceful protest, which ended little more than an hour after it began, marked the latest effort to save Carabanchel prison by civic groups that want at least part of the enormous star-shaped building to be turned into a memorial to victims of the Franco regime, including the thousands of political prisoners who were held there.
The groups had originally wanted the central dome, which used to house the prison command centre, to become the memorial, but half of that collapsed on Saturday night as demolition crews worked under the cover of darkness.

"It is shameful, they're laughing at us," exclaimed one local resident. "They waited until dark so they wouldn't be seen."

Dozens of people have been camping close to the prison grounds since the demolition work began on Wednesday. The partial collapse of the dome on Saturday night led many residents to call emergency services out of fear that protestors or workers could have been injured.

The Prison Directorate, which ordered the work with the approval of Madrid City Hall, subsequently released a statement saying that nothing untoward had happened and that the demolition is "continuing as planned".

Authorities intend to replace the prison with apartments and a hospital, a proposal that has been welcomed by some Carabanchel residents who are happy to see the backs of the squatters who had made the graffiti-covered ex-penitentiary their home since it closed in 1998.

Others, however, argue that the demolition is eliminating a building that played an important role in Spanish history.

Built in the 1940s by Republican prisoners from the 1936-39 Civil War, Carabanchel housed numerous political prisoners, including trade unionist Marcelino Camacho, communist leader Simon Sánchez Montero and Socialist politician Enrique Mugica, who later became justice minister. Anarchists Francisco Granados and Joaquin Delgado were executed in Carabanchel 1963 by strangulation with the garrote vil, and in 1975 three leftists were executed by firing squad inside the prison compound.

In the view of Pedro Casas, the head of the Association of Residents of Upper Carabanchel, the prison's history means it should be kept as a "symbol of Franco's repression" and turned into a memorial akin to the Nazi concentration camps or the South African prison where Nelson Mandela was held.

Casas and other campaigners failed last week to get a court to halt the demolition, but they are not giving up. They plan to file a lawsuit Monday alleging that the Prison Directorate is breaking health and safety laws by forcing the demolition crews to work at night.

[El Pais / Expatica]

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