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Spain: Journalist Arrested and Demonstrations Restricted

The Spanish 15 m movement that took thousands to the streets to demand a more democratic system has reached a new stage. The authorities decided on August 2 not to allow demonstrations any more and they have since tried to prevent demonstrators from gathering, both through blocking their access to public spaces and through violent police action.

On August 4, a gathering was organized at Madrid's main square Puerta del Sol, the epicenter of the protests, but access to the square has been restricted since August 2. The underground and the commuter train, which normally stop at Puerta del Sol, were ordered not to stop there that day and heavy police presence was displayed to ensure that the 15 m movement would not gather there. Twitter was suddenly flooded with reactions like this:

@alberarce Dice @RTVE “indignados buscan la manera de llegar a la Puerta del Sol, defendida por la policía”¿defendida de qué? #plazatomada #periodismo

@alberarce Spanish TV says “demonstrators are trying to reach Sol, which is defended by the Police.” “Defended” from what? #plazatomada #periodismo

Source: glb

 

The tension increased during that day and the following day, when demonstrators gathered at Paseo de la Castellana, Madrid. The police presence was heavy, and it ended with policemen charging against demonstrators. This video, which has been widely shared online, shows  journalist Gorka Ramos (who works for Spanish news-site La Información) being addressed by the police while he was tweeting the events, and beaten right after (min 8). According to the Police, Ramos was arrested for insulting and spitting on the police agents.

Reactions to Ramos's detention have ignited through social media, especially Twitter, where #periodistadetenido (journalist arrested) became a trending topic.

@phumano VIDEO Fría agresión policial al #periodistadetenido por estar mirando la carga, minuto 8. #15M bit.ly/nE39h1 #madridsinmiedo

@phumano VIDEO Cold police agression to the journalist who was arrested while watching (min. 8) #15M bit.ly/nE39h1 #madridsinmiedo
@bimbacha @ojomagico Las imágenes hablan solas, Carlos. A denunciar y a no parar hasta que le den la razón #periodistadetenido
@bimbacha @ojomagico Images speak louder than words, Carlos. Denounce them and don´t stop until you get this right #periodistadetenido
@mtascon Para inquietar al gobierno solo hay q ponerse en una esquina tranquilo a tuitear #periodistadetenido
@mtasco To get the government disturbed all you have to do is tweet form a corner #periodistadetenido

While the detention was not covered by most Spanish media, it received coverage from international media like The Guardian, CBS, Forbes and Associated Press.

Renowned blogger La Pulga y la Locomotora shared an open letter [es] on August 5 asking the Spain Government for the reasons behind this unprecedented step in order to stop mobilizations:

Supongo que son conscientes de que se están vulnerando ciertos derechos fundamentales de los ciudadanos, el más evidente el de Libre Circulación, pero también el de Reunión y el derecho a la Libertad de Expresión.

I suppose you are aware that fundamental rights are being violated, including the right to free circulation, reunion and freedom of speech. Have you considered the legal aspects?

The letter also mentions what many citizens consider to be the real reason for the movement restrictions and police presence:

Veo bastante más relación con la próxima visita del Papa Benedicto, la verdad, y debería preguntarle sobre ello, pero sé que un estado laico nunca aceptará públicamente el hecho de que está actuando bajo petición de la Iglesia Católica.

It seems more related to the upcoming visit of the Pope (who will be joining members of the Catholic Youth in Madrid) and I'd like you to confirm this, although I know that a lay state would never publicly admit to be acting under petition of the Catholic Church.

Some users have expressed concern about what they consider an attempt to use the current events to divide citizens. According to blogger Alberto Vizcaíno [es]:

El poder lo sabe y empieza a gestionar el 15 M: enfrentando ciudadanos contra ciudadanos. Ya tenemos a partidos llamando a la división: “católicos contra indignados”. Como si fuese incompatible ser católico o militar en un partido con estar indignado y querer mejorar el sistema en el que vivimos.

They now know how to manage the 15 m movement. Making citizens confront each other. We already have political parties highlightling this division: “indignant vs. catholic”. As if being a Catholic and wanting to improve the system we live in were incompatible.

The Government delegation (formed by the ruling Spanish Socialist Worker's Party known as the PSOE in Spanish) confirmed recently [es] that they were being pressured by Madrid's City Council (controlled by right-wing People Party) into stopping protesters from occupying public spaces during the Pope's visit. On August 5, the authorities seemed to have changed their mind. The Police withdrew [es] from Sol and access restrictions were removed.  With demonstrators more indignant now than ever, the story will very likely be continued.

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