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Spain: Police Violence During Protest Outside Congress

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

The movement known as 25S, organised by the Plataforma En Pie [es] and the Coordinadora 25S [es], brought thousands of people together to protest in front of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on September 25, 2012. One of the aims of surrounding the Congress was to expose, through a peaceful gathering full of symbolism, the considerable rift created between the citizens and their representatives and the need for a truly democratic system.

People from all over the country came together during a whole day of activities with communal meals and marches through the city centre, which terminated in the surrounding of the Congress. They were not alone; a police deployment without precedent [es] in the age of democracy in Spain prevented access to all streets neighbouring the Congress, which were also completely barricaded with fences.

The atmosphere became tense, just as predicted, with police charges coming soon after. From 9pm, they became more frequent until the demonstration was completely dispersed. Just as on previous occasions, although to a greater extent, the riot police used rubber bullets, truncheons and tear gases in their confrontations with citizens. 35 people were detained and 64 injured, one seriously [es].

Once again, the social networks were the most commonly used means of sharing impressions, slogans and material

Promotion of the practices of citizen journalism during the protests

Promotion of the practices of citizen journalism during the protests.

about the events. Indignation about the police brutality continues to be one of the most commented and criticized aspects. A multitude of videos [es] show arbitrary arrests, the intimidation of journalists [es], and protestors being hit and chased, including inside Atocha train station [es]. Besides home videos, devices allowing events to be streamed such as Toma la Tele played an important role.

It is important to note the reaction of spontaneous support displayed on the net which has transformed the manager of a local bar into a hero. He prevented the police from entering his establishment where a group of protestors who were being chased had found refuge. Another widely circulated video on the Internet shows evidence of police infiltrators dressed as citizens. The video goes on to show a scene in which the riot police hit an individual and he identifies himself as a policeman shouting: “I'm a colleague, damn it.” This phrase later became a hashtag on Twitter. Amnesty International Spain announced that it will request an investigation by the Interior Ministry [es] to clarify what the infiltrators were doing there and whether their intention was to break up the protest. The police were also criticised for not wearing their identification badges. 

@amnistiaespanaEstamos recopilando informacion sobre el #25s y solicitaremos una investigación al Ministerio del Interior,anuncia @_estebanbeltran
@amnistiaespana: We are gathering information about #25s and we will request an investigation from the Interior Ministry, announces @_estebanbeltran

Many people spoke out to condemn the police abuse [es] which took place that day while the president of the Spanish government, Mariano Rajoy, praised the police's actions and declared himself to be proud of the “majority” of Spaniards who did not go out to protest [es]. Ana Botella, mayoress of Madrid, suggested after the events that the government was too permissive in authorising the protestors. The government's delegate in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, compared the protest to a coup d'etat and called for a change in legislation on protests.

Alberto Casillas, manager of a bar, is the hero of 25S for protecting protestors from the police. Photo by El Diagonal.

Alberto Casillas, manager of a bar, is the hero of 25S for protecting protestors from the police. Photo by El Diagonal, taken under CC Licence.

A day later, thousands of people returned to the same place, in front of the Congress, in condemnation of their treatment by the authorities the day before and as proof of the fact that they are not scared. They repeated the same type of protest on Saturday 29th, for a third time. They announced that they will not stop until the government resigns. In Italy, Brussels and Portugal a movement similar to #29S was organised in solidarity with those Spaniards who question legislative power.

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