This is how the movement against squatter cars was born | Spain

This is how the movement against squatter cars was born |  Spain

Juan Larreta (Pamplona, ​​54 years old) is an affable man with a shy smile that he reveals on countless occasions. Handball goalkeeper in his youth, his idol is the famous soccer goalkeeper Arconada. It is to such an extent that his name on social networks is that, Arconada. Graduated in Marketing, in December 2018 he had to stop working due to the advance of multiple sclerosis that he was diagnosed with 16 years ago. His retirement barely lasted 15 days: “I don’t know if it’s because I stopped working at 50, but in two weeks I started this. They could have told me ‘Juan, get some rest, go see the works’, but it was a project with which I could help others”. Larreta refers to #Okupasmotorizados, an initiative that denounces cars parked illegally in places for people with reduced mobility on social networks on a daily basis.

Since he founded the movement in 2019, there are already more than 9,500 photos released daily, the vast majority from Navarra, images with which, in addition to making the situation visible, he has managed to implement a single parking card in this territory for People with disabilities. Until 2022, the foral community was the only one in Spain in which this card was still managed at the municipal level. This January, Larreta has decided to end the daily photo complaint and has done so with more than 4,200 followers, similar initiatives in other autonomous communities and an act in the Navarrese Parliament.

When he stopped working, Larreta began to move more around the center and realized the misuse of the spaces for people with reduced mobility. “People ask you ‘how long is it? For me, walking 20 meters means what walking several kilometers for you, ”she explains. One day, a friend of his sent him a picture of a badly parked car and he posted it on Facebook. It was a Civil Guard vehicle: “I didn’t know at the time that police vehicles, in an emergency, can also park there. In this case they had come to check a camera because a robbery had been reported in a store, I don’t know what that has to do with an emergency, but hey”. And what could have been an anecdote became #Okupasmotorizados. More friends began to send photos and a dozen people gathered. People of different profiles, with or without relation to the world of disability, including journalists, publicists or lawyers. The media also got involved. So far, 550 people have sent them images.

His initiative is spreading through different autonomous communities: “The first was created in Bizkaia a couple of years ago. A person from Barakaldo sent me several photos every day, and one day I asked him, ‘why don’t you put it together?’ Now he is the one who hangs the most ”. Last year it began in Granada, Huelva and Dos Hermanas, in the metropolitan area of ​​Seville. Also in the Barajas district, in the east of the city of Madrid.

The project denounces drivers who occupy places with reduced mobility without having the card and also those who make fraudulent use of it. Larreta details that there are countless cases in which a relative of the permit holder makes use of it, even when the person with a disability has died. “It is just as serious or even more so because they are people who leave home with the card under their arm knowing that it is not theirs,” he criticizes. “It seems incredible to me that there are people who are related to a disability and who are capable of preventing another from exercising their right to this position.”

In publications, he explains, they try to “be respectful of language, cover license plates and faces.” “We do not want to be the typical account of insults. Our objective is not to criminalize the person, but to raise awareness about everything that this entails, ”says the creator of the movement. Avoiding insults is the idea, but he smiles when he admits that sometimes it’s complicated. And he insists that it is not a “balcony police” project, but that “they are people who prevent others from exercising their rights.”

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On many occasions the offenders are delivery workers. Larreta assures that “all the parcel companies” have gone through the account and have been awarded in all editions of the Motorized Squatter of the Year award. “We give a trophy to the person who appears on our account the most times and we vote on Twitter. The first year it was Prosegur, then Correos, Seur and, this year, Amazon”, says Larreta. He does recognize that some of these companies, such as the Post Office, have made a move and have asked their employees for greater responsibility. With nine municipalities in Navarra that bring together half of the autonomous population, he has even launched awareness campaigns.

The project has allowed her to create a community, to meet people in similar situations: “Many tell you when they send you the photo that they have a daughter with a disability or a rare disease, that they have spent their whole lives with this, with people who occupy the square and they tell him to wait five minutes…” Now, after four years of daily publications, wear and tear has led him to stop publishing images every day.

“Motorized squatters are selfish people”

The new stage has been celebrated with an act in the Provincial Parliament, a chamber to which he managed to bring a proposal to change the autonomous legislation. Until 2022, Navarra did not have a single regulation that regulated parking cards for people with disabilities, it was a municipal competence. “In Navarra there are 272 municipalities and the format of the card was different in each town. There were places where they were filled in with a pen, with a typewriter… We came to find everything, even a card without any information, ”he recalls.

The work paid off. In March 2022, Provincial Order 52/2022 was approved that regulates this matter. It will be from April when the results begin to be seen, since it is when the term ends to be able to renew the cards already issued. That month, a single database will also be launched, administered by the regional government, in which police officers will be able to check whether the card placed in a vehicle actually corresponds to a person with a disability. Today, Larreta details, the Pamplona municipal police withdraw an average of two cards a week. “Almost everyone uses the card well and parks where they should, but these people do us a lot of harm,” he laments.

The founder of #Okupasmotorizados is proud of the path he has traveled: “Am I a pest citizen? Well, I’m a bore, but there are things that we have to claim. Motorized squatters are selfish people who have no education, civility or empathy”. There are more battles on his mind, like the one over businesses that have a step at the entrance. It is a reality that also suffers when entering public buildings, where there are still insurmountable barriers for some people with reduced mobility. In any case, he promises that he is not going to get involved in another project: “I am going to rest”. And his wife, Ainhoa ​​Esparza, incredulous, can only laugh when she hears him.

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