In October 2017, a tense demonstration to demand the burying of the train tracks as it passed through Murcia ended in acts of vandalism that caused the closure of rail traffic for days. Three young people, who were between 18 and 20 years old at the time, face eight-year prison sentences and pay 133,000 euros in compensation, accused of those acts, which has caused citizen protests to be reactivated this month and neighbors to return to take to the streets to defend them.
The “youth of the tracks”, as they are popularly known in the city, will go to trial on March 24 accused of crimes of public disorder and fire damage, and until then weekly demonstrations are planned to request their acquittal, some protests that began this Thursday with a march in which some 200 people participated.
Placido Vera, the father of one of the defendants, shows his bewilderment four years after the demonstration. In a telephone conversation, he points out that it is not understood “how these boys were chosen as responsible for some events that occurred in the midst of a tumult of unrecognizable people.”
In the autumn of 2017, tempers were very heated in the southern neighborhoods of Murcia, those that cross a train track that today has already been partially buried. That burying had been a historical claim in the area for three decades. With the project for the arrival of the AVE in the city, it was destined to become a reality, but the project that was then put on the table included the arrival of high speed on the surface on a provisional basis until the work was finished. That angered the neighbors.
On September 12, coinciding with the patron saint festivities, inhabitants of the southern neighborhoods of Murcia called a massive demonstration that was the starting signal for almost two years of daily rallies around the Santiago el Mayor neighborhood level crossing. Already on October 3, in a climate of tension between the neighbors and the Government delegation, the disturbances ended up causing the burning of sleepers and restraints of what was to be the provisional route, the demolition of the methacrylate screens that the citizens They considered an impassable “wall” and damage to catenary posts.
The protests bore fruit: the level crossing was dismantled and the tracks are already buried from that neighborhood to the Carmen station. High speed is not expected to reach the Murcian capital until the end of this year.
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The “youth on the tracks”, Vera indicates, were singled out by the police “ten days after” the altercations based on videos recorded the night of the disturbances. In the same recordings, he assures, Vera himself and his wife also appear, and many of the protagonists of the pro-burial protests, such as Ana, known as “the grandmother of the tracks”, who sat every day with her chair in the already missing level crossing to claim its closure, or the priest Joaquín Sánchez, another regular in the protests, among thousands of other people. “Why weren’t they accused of the damage? Because the city would have taken to the streets. It was easier to charge against three kids without names or surnames”, he laments. There is a fourth investigated for these facts that at that time was a minor and whose trial was held this week. At the hearing, the young man accepted his right not to testify.
Vera is confident that both this minor and his son and the other two defendants will be acquitted in this case, but insists on the “nonsense” that his arrest entailed, the long process and the judicial deployment for it: the trial will take carried out in the Provincial Court of Murcia in nine sessions, which is expected to last until May. In his opinion, the objective of all this action was none other than to “criminalize the protests and demonstrations to demand the burying, criminalize the thousands of neighbors who have made the burying possible.”
The father of one of the defendants assures that he believes in justice and that they will be acquitted, but regrets the four years of “suffering” that this process has generated for families and children just for “defending a just cause.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.