Author: Leah Pattem (Versión castellana)
Mame Mbaye was a Senegalese migrant who arrived in Madrid in 2006, and three years ago yesterday he died. There are two very different versions of what happened: one reported by the police and the other by his friends. The police version stands, but the 12 years leading up to his death match up far more with the account of his friends, that what killed Mame Mbaye was institutional racism.
Mame set off from the city of Saint Louis in his native Senegal to the coasts of the Canary Islands in a boat with 93 other people, some of them minors. He arrived in Santa Cruz, Tenerife on May 29, 2006 after a week of travel.
During his 12 years in Madrid, Mame worked ‘illegally’ as a street vendor (mantero) and as a cook at a friend’s restaurant. He was making enough money to afford a place in a flat on Calle del Oso, which is where he died, on the doorstep. The cause of death: cardiac arrest. He was just 35 years old.
Mame lived his life in Madrid condemned to social exclusion. The Immigration Law requires you first to have been here, undocumented, for three years before the regularisation procedures can begin, but with a requirement of having a permanent contract makes this almost impossible to fulfil.
While undocumented, a migrant has no right to healthcare – only emergency care – leaving many with undiagnosed health conditions such as the heart condition that led to Mame’s death. Association Regularización Ya are fighting to change this with the strong message that institutional racism and the immigration law kill.
“This was the result of a police persecution, one of the many that we suffer daily as manteros. This fact is not an isolated case, but rather a consequence of a systematic violation of human rights”, explain Mame Mbaye’s friends.
ONE DEATH: TWO VERSIONS
Police reports narrate that officers found Mame Mbaye lying on the ground outside his home and tried to resuscitate him, but various bystanders and friends of Mame claim that officers had chased him down from Sol, causing him to suffer a heart attack while repeatedly saying,
No puedo más” (I can’t take anymore)
Three years later, we are still waiting for the death of our colleague to be clarified. The society that turned its back on you while you lived, has not made any effort to investigate what was the cause of your death. On the contrary, they have continued to persecute, criminalise and try to silence whom we have denounced.
Unlike George Floyd, no one filmed Mame Mbaye in his final moments, so we’ll never truly know the details surrounding his death. Something we do know, however, is that the police in Spain hold the power and routinely get the final say. The version of Mame’s friends, however, is the one that many choose to believe and it’s this version that sparked the Lavapiés riots.
With Mame’s body still on the ground outside his home on Calle de Oso, a hundred or more migrants quickly gathered and created a human blockade on either side of the narrow street, preventing the paramedics from taking the body of Mame Mbaye away. His friends wanted answers and justice before the scene of the crime was dismantled and swept away forever. Then they marched.
I was there and followed the advancing police front line moving down Calle Mesón de Paredes. The riots were on the other side of the flashing blue lights, and the debris was hot beneath my feet as I stepped over burning motorbikes, melted bins, bricks and shards of glass. The streets smelled of burning rubber and looked like a war zone.
Within less than 24 hours, thousands had gathered on Plaza Nelson Mandela, and every year since, Sindicato de Manteros hold a vigil on the same square.
To stay informed on local #BLM and migrant issues, follow these anti-racism platforms:
HELP US SPEND MORE TIME ON MADRID NO FRILLS
You may have noticed that, unlike the vast majority of publications, MNF remains free of ads, sponsors and rich investors. Independence is everything and we will not be influenced by those in a position of privilege or power. Therefore, I invite only our audience to support this project and only you to help us keep doing what we do.
Support MNF for as little as €1 per month, which you can cancel at any time.