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Violent protests sweep Madrid over death of Senegalese migrant ‘found by police’ (VIDEOS)

Protesters set a bank office on fire as they clashed with riot police in downtown Madrid following the death of an African street vendor. Reports claimed the deceased collapsed after a police pursuit, which law enforcement denies.

A group of some 50 people, mostly immigrants and anti-racism activists, flooded the Lavapies neighborhood, where the street vendor had been living. Mmame Mbage, 35, had been in Spain for 12 years before the alleged encounter with police that resulted in his death.

Protesters threw stones and bottles at police, and burned garbage containers. Several activists hurled insults at police, shouting “murderers” and “cowards” as law enforcers attempted to disperse the crowd with rubber bullets. Several police cars and motorcycles were damaged in the violence.

Some 15 police officers were treated by emergency services, including three who were taken to hospital. Four passers-by who were caught in the clashes were also hospitalized, El Mundo reported.

Fire crews were called to the scene, and the area was sealed off by police. In one of the tensest moments of the unrest, the facade of a nearby bank office caught fire, leading to an evacuation of the whole building. Some protesters threw chairs and road signs that they pulled out in the street.

It was reported that looters used the opportunity to steal around 10 TV sets from CaixaBank after firefighters extinguished the flames. 

A street vendor identified only as Modou, who witnessed the incident that led to the unrest, claimed that police were to blame for Mbage’s death. He suffered a cardiac arrest in the street.

"Municipal police arrived and chased him from Sol to Lavapies with a motorbike,” Modou told AFP. Several other unnamed witnesses have corroborated his account, the agency reported

However, police insist that the man died of natural causes and officers were first to come to his assistance as they found him collapsed on the street. Disputing the witnesses’ accounts, police said that, while a raid against illegal street trade was indeed conducted in the area, it did not involve Mbage.

"They have confused two issues that have nothing to do with each other. In Sol, there was an intervention with manteros [street vendors] who ran over some tourists when fleeing, but the deceased was not involved in what happened there,” a municipal police source said, as cited by El Mundo.

They said that officers returning from the operation spotted the man lying unconscious on the ground. "We were the first to assist him while SAMUR (Madrid’s Emergency Medical Service) arrived but he has died," the source said. The man did not have ID on him and shortly afterwards, his companion began calling other street vendors to the area.

Mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmena expressed condolences to Mbage’s family and promised a thorough investigation of the events.