"Survival is not an offence," says one of the placards.


Let's call them Darty and Fatome: not their real names. They are street sellers in Palma. One sells cans of drink; the other, glasses. They know it's illegal, but they do it to survive.

Together with others, they are forming the first people's "union" of street sellers in Palma. It's due to be constituted in September. The impulse for this came from Barcelona, where a union was formed over a year ago.

Darty is Majorcan and was born here, Fatome is Moroccan. He talks about his run-ins with the local police. "Some of them despise us. Some have told me to get back to my country." Both understand that they are liable to have their wares confiscated, but they ask for some respect that they are not shown.

They mention the way in which police statements criminalise them by referring to the "mafia" of the street sellers. "There's no one behind us. We buy what we want in order to sell it, and we decide our places and our hours," says Fatome.

In Arenal they point out that there are gangs of foreigners from the far-right who attack sellers. The ongoing battle with the police and the racist abuse and assaults are two reasons why the street sellers are in the process of organising themselves.

This union will be open to all sellers but it will seek to give particular attention to the "manteros", characterised by their putting out their goods on blankets and who are the ones to most suffer from what they call "police persecution". There will be an action plan, therefore, and this will start with a network for surveillance and communication. "The idea is that if someone has problems, he can count on a system of information whereby the rest of us know who he is, where he is and can give support," explains Darty.

No posts for this union have yet been filled. "No seller wants to push himself as the spokesperson. We want to give everyone the opportunity," adds Darty. There is, he accepts, reluctance among some of the sellers because they think the union might represent a type of competition to them. "They'll join, though," believes Fatome.

The two consider it essential to report the circumstances in which they live. For this, they look to the media to support them and to explain their cause. Both are aware of a long road ahead, but they believe that it will be worth it.