ARMED police took up battle stations yesterday to confront an angry group of around 160 residents in the Palma district of El Molinar who had banded together in protest at plans to erect a halfway house for the homeless on their doorstep .
Armed with banners, and making as much noise as they could with drums and trumpets, the neighbours confronted a large machine which had been dispatched to the site at Plaza de la Gruta by the City Council to carry out test boring. Original plans are that a prefabricated building should be set up to house approximately 100 homeless people who will be monitored by a government service which attempts to find work for people living on the edge of society and provide them with a chance to reintegrate. President of the El Molinar Residents' Association, Miguel Obrador told reporters yesterday that the police had closed off the streets which allow access to the neighbourhood and had even stopped residents approaching on foot from entering the area. He said that there were about sixty officers from an Anti-disturbance squad some of whom had come prepared to use truncheons. Obrador went on to describe how many women and children, youngsters and elderly people had turned up to join in the protest. Those who had been hurt in the ensuing affray, including one boy who had allegedly had his finger broken, denounced the actions of police at the duty magistrate's office. Some people fainted in the scuffles and were taken away by ambulance, and one person suffered a panic attack. Only the City Council could possibly consider such a disproportionate response to the protest, said Obrador who specifically criticised the management of Citizen Participation councillor Eberhard Grosske. We're not going to let the police frighten us in to giving up our rights to protest. Judicially, the land where the site of the halfway house is planned, still belongs to the people of El Molinar.