BARCELONA, Spain (CN) — It's 11:30 in the morning and Antonio Díaz begins shouting at the top of his lungs. He hollers at the towering court building, condemning the judges and prosecutors behind the walls and rows of glass windows. His hands and body tremble in rage.
“Thieves! It's not legal!” Díaz shouts as the veins in his neck pulse and bulge. “Face up to it! Face up to it! Don't put me in jail! Be brave! Face my demands! Investigate!”
The scene is the same day after day: Díaz arrives as Barcelona's city courts begin work and he paces back and forth in front of the main court building. He's angry, determined and single-minded.
For more than two hours, he paces outside the court building like an angry bull. He talks to anyone who cares to hear why he is so angry at the courts and banks. And he resumes his pacing.
He wears the same white T-shirt every day: On the front are the names of banks and financial companies he accuses of illegally seeking to seize his family home and taking money away from him and his parents by way of a contested mortgage.
On the T-shirt's back, he accuses the court system of letting the financial companies off the hook. The shirt states in big letters:
“Justice is rotten.”
Although Díaz cuts a lonely figure out in front of the Barcelona court, his story and protest reflect the agonies of many Spaniards in the wake of 2008 financial crisis.
Spain was hit particularly hard when the global real estate bubble broke. The country's surplus-happy public budgets went bust and by 2009 public deficit amounted to about 11 percent of Spain's gross domestic product.
For decades, Spaniards had been encouraged to buy homes, and by the time the crisis hit Spain had one of Europe's highest rates of home ownership, at about 80%.
A housing boom started in the mid-1980s and lasted until the crisis began in 2007. Construction was crucial in making Spain's economy tick. The construction extravaganza was spurred by easy credit, financial deregulation, an end to rent controls and passage of laws encouraging real estate development for domestic use and tourists. In turn, the boom led to inflated home prices and rising rents, which pushed even more Spaniards to buy real estate.
Then the crash hit. Construction froze and Spain's banking system teetered on the brink. Real estate prices plummeted by about half and homeowners were increasingly unable to pay off mortgages.
After the crash, banks foreclosed on more than 415,000 properties and hundreds of thousands of people were evicted from their homes. Evictions continue to this day and remain a source of deep anger.
“There are lots of people in a situation like mine,” Díaz says.
On this hot day in August, Díaz will be arrested for the 20th time since Catalonia's high court ruled that his one-man protest is illegal because he is disrupting work for court employees.
The high court's ruling took effect on July 8, according to El País, a Spanish newspaper. He was ordered to “immediately refrain” from disrupting the “normal activity” of the court.
The morning is just getting started when he talks with a Courthouse News reporter about his one-man protest.