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The Woman Now Running Barcelona Is Kind Of A Badass

Ada Colau, a former anti-eviction activist who has occupied banks and been arrested by riot police in her quest for equality, is now mayor of Spain's second largest city.

Posted on June 16, 2015, at 7:42 a.m. ET

On Saturday, Ada Colau became the mayor of Barcelona, Spain's second-largest city. And she has some big changes in mind.

Emilio Morenatti / AP

Ada Colau holds her baton after being elected as Barcelona's new mayor.

This is Colau back in 2011, when she was already a well-known social activist as a co-founder of the anti-eviction group Mortgage Victims’ Platform (PAH), created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Emilio Morenatti / AP

The crisis hit hard in Spain, where the unemployment rate is 26%, second in Europe only to Greece. With people unable to pay, banks began repossessing homes in record numbers — as of late 2012, an estimated 400,000 evictions proceedings had been opened.

Andres Kudacki / AP

A police officer stands guard at the building entrance as Maria Luisa Montiel, 47 cries next to a friend, during her eviction in Madrid, Spain on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.

Her star truly began to rise in 2013 during a series of high-profile confrontations with bankers. At a parliamentary hearing, she called out a senior member of Spain's Banking Association and said: “This man is a criminal and should be treated as such.”

Emilio Morenatti / AP

Ada Colau, center, the leader of the Mortgage Victims' Platform, is carried out by riot police officers after occupying a bank in July 2013.

She was then arrested by riot police on multiple occasions during protests against evictions in Spain. (Spain's housing laws are extremely strict — those evicted still have to continue to pay their mortgages and all late fees after losing their homes.)

Paco Serinelli / AP

Ada Colau is carried out by riot police officers after occupying another bank only weeks later.

This year, Colau's profile raised even higher as she became the leader of a coalition known as Barcelona en Comú (Barcelona in Common) and challenged the long-dominant conservative party that held control of her city.

Emilio Morenatti / AP

In late May's regional elections, Colau's left-wing coalition won 11 seats in Barcelona's 41-seat assembly — not a majority, but enough to be in the driver's seat, and on Saturday the 41 year-old former activist was sworn-in as Barcelona's newest mayor.

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

First order of business: what she and her cohorts are calling their "emergency plan" of 30 points designed to turn the ailing city around.

Emilio Morenatti / AP

"Her salary as mayor will be slashed from €140,000 to around €35,000 a year," The Guardian reported, and "bankers will be hauled into meetings to discuss how to halt evictions and turn the empty homes on their books into affordable housing."

Emilio Morenatti / AP

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