Spaniards take to streets to protest ‘draconian’ new security laws

A man whose head is taped and hands are chained stands next to placards reading "censorship" during a protest against the Spanish government's new anti-protest security law, known as "Ley Mordaza", in Madrid February 14, 2015. (Reuters/Sergio Perez)
Protesters across Spain have been demonstrating against a government decision to stiffen penalties for unauthorized demos. Fines of up to 600,000 euros and prison sentences are set to be introduced for certain offenses and organizing illegal rallies.

The main march took place in Madrid, as protesters blew whistles and banged drums before marching towards a square in the center of the capital. The organizers of the protests called for demonstrators to take to the streets in 20 other cities around Spain, AFP reports.

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The government has introduced the legislation to beef up security and clamp down on dissent at a time when Spain is suffering from its worst recession for decades and soaring mass unemployment. Those opposed to the law say the government is not allowing their viewpoints to be heard.

“The government remains set on silencing the voice of the people," said Miguel Angel Soto, a spokesman for the Spanish branch of Greenpeace, who also took part in the protest.

"They are gagging dissenting voices and want to fine citizens who do not resign themselves to what we are going through."

They believe the government is behaving in a draconian fashion with its proposed reforms, which will see demonstrators sent to jail for certain public order offenses, while the organizers of unauthorized rallies could be slapped with a whopping 600,000 euro ($683,000) fine.

The legislation will also see a 600 euro ($683) fine for showing a lack of respect to anyone in uniform, while the photographing or filming of police officers, where they could be put in danger, will incur a 30,000 euro ($34,100) fine.

READ MORE: Rallies staged in over 30 Spanish cities against tough new anti-protest law (PHOTOS)

The lower house of parliament has already passed the new proposed laws in December, with 181 members supporting the motion and 141 against. The Senate is set to vote on whether to pass the bill in the next few weeks. With conservative Popular Party currently enjoying a majority in both houses, it is likely the motion will be passed.

This is not the first time that Spanish protesters have been up in arms about the proposed legislation. In December, marches took place in 30 cities around the country, with opponents of the move saying it will take Spain back to the days of Franco’s right-wing authoritarian government.