The protest in Arenal on Thursday. | Alejandro Sepúlveda


Despite the mayor of Llucmajor having said on Thursday that problematic Algerians had left Arenal, the Guardia Civil and local police have mounted a special operation that will continue, as the police say, "for as long as necessary".

A large deployment of officers is intended to make the operation highly visible and to deter residents from taking matters into their own hands. The operation will be 24/7, although it is at night when incidents are most likely to occur.

On Thursday evening, around 400 residents staged a protest at which there were shouts of "out with the Algerians". Spokesperson César Moreno said that Arenal must be protected. "Tomorrow we will take to the streets again and defend our neighbourhood. We want a definitive solution and a greater police presence."

The protest was in response to events on Wednesday night when the local gypsy community threatened to "lynch" young Algerians. The squat in which they had been staying was boarded up on Thursday morning on the order of Llucmajor town hall and police.

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The police have said that it is not certain that these Algerians had come from the Palma district of Son Gotleu. Following violence last week, residents of Son Gotleu had driven them out. And it is the case that problems caused by young Algerian men in Arenal hadn't just arisen. Evidence of this is the fact that Algerians had themselves succeeded in getting rid of and replacing Romanian pickpockets.

Common to both part of Arenal and Son Gotleu are poverty, the drugs trade and the Spanish gypsy community. The gypsies were to the fore in the actions against Algerians in Son Gotleu and they have taken the lead role in Arenal as well. They have commanded popular support as a result. But there are people in Arenal who view developments as something of a power struggle.

The gypsies are certainly no strangers to crime, but they typically haven't been associated with the kind of violent crime committed by Algerians. Wednesday's incident was sparked off by the attempted mugging of an elderly woman by a group of Algerians. The gypsies would not do this sort of thing. There is a sense of community even if there is also a criminal undercurrent.

In light of the Guardia and police special deployment, the mayor's words on Thursday have to be questionable. The security forces plan to 'shield' Arenal, fully aware that they face a completely different problem in a few days' time - the arrival of the first end-of-course Spanish students.