Violence in Barcelona

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Friday saw continuation of protests across Spain against the current political system in the country despite the ridiculous attempt by the Spanish government to place a ban on all protests coming up to the elections. It also brought with it one of the first clashes with police since the movement began. Barcelona was the site of police brutality on Friday as protesters refused to be moved from the Plaça de Catalunya.

The reaction from the riot police has been violent and seemingly unprovoked, with attempts to forcibly remove protesters from the square. People have been struck with batons, kicked while sitting on the ground, dragged along the street and rubber bullets were fired into the crowd. Ten people have been hospitalised as a result of the violence, and women have not been exempt from this rough treatment either. Images from the events on Friday show people bloodied and bruised and it has been made clear that there was no violence on the part of protesters, but that the police had simply taken it upon themselves to remove people by whatever means possible.

On speaking with two other protesters, they told me that the police had requested that people leave the square so that it could be cleaned. It seems that the majority of the protesters do not believe that this was a genuine excuse, and was simply a ploy to get people off the streets. They were keen to make it clear to me that their demonstrations have been nothing but peaceful and there was never any intention of clashing with police, but that the Catalan police have been brutal in their attempts to move protesters resisting eviction.

The Barcelona chief of police attempted to deny the scenes in an interview, however it was plain to see to anyone who saw the news channels that morning in Spain, or looked at the paper the following day just how disgracefully the police behaved. This attempt to conceal the truth is just another remnant of Franco-esque methods that still seem to exist to a certain extent in the Spanish police force.

The scenes from Barcelona are a serious indictment of the police and their handling of the protests. I had noticed an ever-increasing police presence in Puerta del Sol as the days went by and the protests became more widespread across the country, but there have been no reports of violence up until now. The reaction of the police force, which is notorious for its handling of situations like this, has been quite shocking and exceedingly harsh, with their violence against protesters seeming indiscriminate and entirely unwarranted.

However, if the brutality inflicted on protesters in Barcelona is supposed to send out some sort of warning to other people involved in demonstrations around the country, I can only see it backfiring on the authorities. The actions of the police seem to have been met with shock by most other Spanish people, and it does not seem unlikely that it will only further support for protesters and reinvigorate the movement, which is of course against the interests of the government who no doubt want the protests to finish as quickly as possible and end all this negative attention.

Brutalising peaceful protesters in broad daylight, in front of journalists and television cameras is not going to help the image of the regional government in Catalonia, and will only contribute to people’s dissatisfaction with the current state of politics in the country.

BCN 27M from Daniel Vazquez on Vimeo.

Niamh Kelly is a student of NUI Galway, about to go into second year to study English and Spanish. She is currently in Madrid to learn the language. Her first report from Madrid, which was first published on ILR last week was republished on the Journal.ie today.

Photos and video courtesy of Roarmag.org

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One Response

  1. Tamarind

    June 16, 2011 11:56 am

    SEQUEL: PROTESTERS BLOCK ACCESS TO CATALAN PARLIAMENT AND JOSTLE DEPUTIES ON THEIR WAY TO WORK

    Blocking parliament and assaulting deputies is not the best way to go about things. On the other hand, if the violent incidents of the 15th of June 2011 serve to shake Catalonia’s political class out of its complacency and face the problems of the real world, democracy will have been well served.

    The ‘shock-horror’ headlines in Catalonia’s subservient press and leader articles arguing that the country’s immature parliamentary democracy is threatened by the actions of yesterday’s demonstrators ring false. The Press’ alacrity here in defending ‘the establishment’ and a narrow concept of democracy is worrying to say the least.

    If democracy is threatened, it is by the ‘business as usual’ mentality adopted by the big parties as they grapple with an economic crisis they did much to spawn.

    None of us would like to see Catalonia or Spain sink into the kind of street violence now seen in Greece. However, any system that punishes the poor for the sins of the rich can expect short shrift from the huddled masses. Spanish unemployment benefits are cruelly insufficient and of short duration. With well over four million people without a job, millions more receiving Third-World wages, and the dispossessed saddled with mortgages for homes they no longer occupy, the country is a powder keg waiting for a match.

    Spain has reflected little on what democracy really means since ‘The Transition’ from Franco’s dictatorship. Now is a good time to start before it is too late.