Stop the police

It was Papa Antou Mbaye's crime not to have picked up his ID when rushing out to buy a baguette at a baker's for dinner. He run into a police patrol and was taken in custody for three days until it was cleared that all his residency papers were in order. Immigrants not carrying an ID or residency papers in Spain are often taken to custody and may be sent to infamous internment centers for a deportation order. But city residents in Madrid are now fed up with what many claim as “discriminatory and racist anti-immigration roundups” by the police and have joined the efforts to defend illegal immigrants. They have created street watch groups and put up alarm networks to shadow police patrols. Neighborhood assemblies of the May 15th protest movement declared the multiethnic districts of Lavapiés and Carabanchel zones free of immigration sweeps. Crowds have blocked police patrols believed to be carrying out ID checks while the police blamed the residents of protecting criminals. The sweeps have been criticized by the UN and human rights groups. We went to meet immigrants, neighbors’ and community associations as well as the local police – and to comb Madrid metro stations to track down the roundups that officially do not exist.
Published in Helsingin Sanomat in 2011.

photos by olmo calvo rodríguez