Spain – police issue 40,000 fines in just seven months with new gag laws
In 2012, there were nearly 15,000 demonstrations throughout Spain, amounting to around 40 per day. In 2013, there were 4,500 demonstrations in Madrid alone: an increase of 1,000 from the year before. Protest increased on a par with the continual disintegration of full employment and the implementation of severe austerity programmes accompanied with a lack of government transparency and accusations of corruption at the very highest level.
In April last year, Amnesty International (AI) was clearly getting concerned with how the authorities in Spain were dealing with peaceful public protest in Spain by saying:
“With threats of fines or threats of being beaten, the government is trying to stigmatise and criminalise people who are just practising their rights.”
Amnesty International investigated and discovered that although the vast majority of protesters were indeed peaceful, police treated the protests as riots and the people in them in the same manner as those who incited violence. In many cases, the police had used excessive force to confront protesters. AI’s report entitled “Spain: Protests and the suffocating embrace of the law” makes for sobering reading.
By June, Spain officially went police state with a series of “gag laws” that effectively criminalised peaceful public protest. Among the many new repressive stipulations was the implementation of €30,000-€600,000 fines for “unauthorised protests,” which can be combined for maximum effect with a €600-€300,000 fine for “disrupting public events.”
This awful set of authoritarian statutes arose from Spain’s position as a flashpoint for anti-austerity protests. The European Union did not want to see a precursor to the Occupy Wall Street movement gaining significant ground in its territorial fiefdom and has allowed breaches of internationally recognised human rights laws to be perpetrated right under its nose. Fines and mistreatment await anyone who refuses to recognise authority with the respect it’s forcibly requiring citizens to demonstrate.
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The law also extended its anti-protest punishments to social media, where users can face similar fines for doing nothing more than encouraging or organizing a protest. Failing to present ID when commanded is another fine. And then there’s this:
Showing a “lack of respect” to those in uniform or failing to assist security forces in the prevention of public disturbances could result in an individual fine of between €600 and €30,000.
What could go wrong? The Spanish news outlet eldiario.es filed a request for information which revealed an alarming number of penalties and sanctions issued since the Gag Law, otherwise known as the Public Safety Act, was passed on July 1, 2015.
In the space between July 1st 2015, the date the new laws were enforced and January 28, 2016 police have grabbed the opportunity with both hands and sanctioned or fined 40,000 people for “disrespecting” law enforcement. Some of the numbers include; 6,217 for ‘disrespecting the police”, 3,700 for disobedience to authority and 2,027 for causing public disorder.
“Now the government is judge and jury on a number of violations that were previously in the hands of independent judges,” says Joaquin Bosch, spokesperson for Jueces por la Democracia (Judges for Democracy). Bosch’s critisisms continue – “Article 52 of the law states that the complaint of a police officer constitutes “sufficient evidentiary basis” to take legal action. “In the judicial field, the cop’s word is not enough, it has to be proven.”
Spain is one of the least violent countries in the world but other controversial articles of the law are extended to areas similar to that of totalitarian states. There are penalties just for refusing to provide identification, taking photos of police or other objects that could identify a member of the security forces or for obstructing authority in compliance with administrative or judicial decisions, including people who try to prevent an eviction, for example.
Amnesty International also stated that;
“The excessive use of force by Spanish police and plans to strengthen repressive legislation are a damning indictment of the Spanish government’s determination to crush peaceful protest. The police have repeatedly used batons and rubber bullets against demonstrators, injuring and maiming protestors and by-standers alike. The police act with complete impunity, while peaceful demonstrators and leaders of social movements are continually harassed, stigmatized, beaten, sometimes arrested to face criminal charges, imprisonment and fines.”
And as one peaceful protestor, Ester Quitana said after being hit in the face with a rubber bullet fired by the police – “Due to the impact of the rubber bullet, I have a deformed nasal septum, injuries in my mouth and my ear, and have lost sensation on the left side of my face. I am still under psychological treatment, my daily routine has been affected, as well as the way I am connected with people, how I am seen by them. I’ve been denied any kind of social benefits I have applied for.”
Maria, for protesting against budget cuts was ¢1,000 told AI “They want to destroy the leadership of the movements, and so are seeking out the spokespeople”.
Amnesty International also reports that those unfortunate to become detainees have been ill-treated when taken into police custody and that journalists and photographers covering demonstrations have also reported being the target of police violence. Cameras and equipment have been damaged by police to prevent the documenting of police violence.
Revenue from the sanctions since the new laws were enforced last July has now reached 18.3 million euros.
As the government itself has since recognised, demonstrators committed violence in less than one per cent of the rallies and protests.
In the meantime, the unelected bureaucrats of the European Union have looked the other way as has the United Nations, both of whom promote as central to their existence the protection of human rights of which Spain is a member state.
Graham Vanbergen – truepublica.org.uk