Society 12/07/2022

Trash fleamarket becomes entrenched in the streets of Raval

The City Council cleared it from Ronda Sant Antoni in February and now it has set up the Plaça del Dubte and its surroundings

3 min
The market of misery in the square of the Arrabal Doubt

BarcelonaA man sits by his shopping cart and tries on shoes. Others gossip, wandering around between the sheets – and the tablecloth – lying on the floor. There are about fifteen of them, one next to the other, and on display are used shoes, toys (some with their boxes and others old), keyboards, some jewellery, second or third hand clothes... It is a fleamarket known as the market of misery, which offers a wide range of objects, usually recovered from the rubbish and which, since February, was cleared from the Ronda Sant Antoni. Instead, it is now set up every afternoon in the streets of the Raval. It is usually in the small Plaça del Dubte, on Riera Alta street, next to the Ronda Sant Antoni, but it also sometimes expands in neighbouring alleys such as Cendra or Requesens. Some times there are ten vendors and at others about thirty or even more, and now in summer they are usually there from the early afternoon until after eleven o'clock at night. If they see the police, they leave for a while and come back later.

For months now, every evening, the market takes over Plaça del Dubte, with products displayed just a few centimetres from the doors of businesses and apartment blocks. There are many vendors. The residents of the area have complained more than once to the Ciutat Vella district that they have problems walking around the square and the surrounding alleys or getting home, especially the elderly or people with reduced mobility. They do not understand why action was taken against this market when it was on Ronda Sant Antoni, where the deputy mayor of Security, Albert Batlle, decided in February to deploy a police patrol 24 hours a day (it is still there), and, yet, it seems to be tolerated now it sets up in their neighbourhood, where streets are even narrower.

"If it happens in Raval, it is all out of sight, nobody does anything," a neighbour complains, who says the market is "unsustainable" in such a small space because it occupies the entire square, obstructs doorways and intimidates neighbours. In addition, many of the objects that are exhibited as merchandise during the afternoon end up abandoned next to rubbish containers at night: "It is also a problem of cleanliness". Others are wary that some sellers may also be pushing drugs or stolen goods. Some neighbours point out, in this sense, that beyond the obvious problem of poverty there could also be some crime and claim to have witnessed suspicious scenes

The City Council responds that the police reports deny this point and say that if there is some kind of crime is punctual. But neighbours, who are already experts in the functioning of the group and know, for example, who the lookouts are, are fed up of the market having taken over all this public space. The Taller de Músics, on Carrer de la Cendra, is also displeased: its director has written to district councillor Jordi Rabassa (BComú) to ask for urgent solutions to prevent the problem from becoming chronic in this part of the city. In his letter, he recounts the problems the market causes, which, he says, go beyond the use of public space and result in conflicts at the school gates and neighbours feeling intimidated.

"Social and police action"

Consulted by this newspaper, Rabassa defends that "from the first day" the market was set up on Plaça del Dubte they have acted in different ways: the conflict management service has been called in and they have tried to find out who the people who participate in the market are, in coordination with the police. The councillor reiterates that police have not detected any major crime issues. "A coordinated social and police intervention is needed", he defends, and points out that so far they have been able to verify that most of the sellers live in Raval and use – or used to use – the neighbourhood's social services. They are looking for a space where they can "socialise" and "make a living", even if only with the small amounts they get from selling junk. According to the councillor, there are now fewer vendors than when the market was on Ronda Sant Antoni: they have gone down from one hundred to around forty.

Some of the vendors at Plaça del Dubte.

Rabassa admits that the location of the market in the alleys of the Raval generates tensions and assures that the situation needs a solution "the sooner the better", but that social work needs to be prioritised instead of sending in the police: when that was done on the Ronda Sant Antoni, it only succeeded in moving the market to a new location. He defends that the Conucil is acting with "zero tolerance" when any kind of crime is detected, but that the Council plan has to take into account that these are people in a serious situation of exclusion.

"They need a welfare solution or a space where they do not generate a nuisance," says Carmela Torró, of the Xarxa Veïnal el Raval, who also stresses the problem for neighbours' mobility the daily market entails.