‘Repressive law’ could tip the balance of Spanish street protests
Last week the Spanish government approved draft legislation
introduced by Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz. The bill
will set fines of up to 30,000 euros for insulting state symbols
and is applicable to offenses such as burning the national flag
or causing serious disturbances at a rally.
The measures also include fines of up to 1,000 euros for insulting police officers during demonstrations. Those photographing or recording police actions could also be fined for doing so.
Murado argues that the law is too vague, and could thus be misinterpreted.
RT:Isn't this ultimately the protesters' fault? Surely, after years of weekly demonstrations and clashes the government had to act?
Miguel-Anxo Murado: The truth is that there have been a number of demonstrations in Spain in the past few months, in the past few years. But in reality – very little violence. Think of the last year, for example, there were around 4000 demonstrations and only 10 were reported to have seen some violence, and even not major violence.
So that is what is causing the controversy among things about this law, the fact that Spain does not really have the problem of violence in the streets and this is different from other countries. And even other aspects of the law which deals with security in general. Spain has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. Obviously many people think that the government really wants to stifle descent.
RT:Spanish police have a reputation for
heavy-handedness. If they can't even be filmed anymore... what's
to keep them in check?
MM: That is a problem because the timing of this law actually coincides with the series of scandals involving police officers who had acted brutally, even causing the death of a man recently. That was filmed by someone, by a passerby, by his mobile phone and that filming has become the main proof for the trial of these policemen. So again people clearly feel the temptation to see the connection between these two things.
RT:According to the draft laws, you'd be forbidden from insulting the state. Just what does that mean?
MM: Well not just the state but the fact that Spain is sort of a federal state, although not under that name, also insulting the symbols of the government of those regions of Spain, even the local council. Of course, it is a very ugly thing to insult the state or anything else but the problem is that the law is so un-precise, so unspecific that it is really not clear what they mean actually by insulting. Since this is left to police to decide, this is another controversy surrounding this law. Not a judge, but policemen would decide. Well many are worried that this is leaving people unprotected.
RT:And will this effectively kill off protests?
MM: Well I’m not sure. In fact several political groups are already talking of protesting against these laws. So it could go exactly the other way around. It could cause more demonstrations. But what it could certainly cause is a lot of trouble within the judiciary. The judges, through their own associations, professional associations today were saying they don’t know how to deal with the situation. That they think that this is uncalled for, and that it sidelines the judges from the process of dealing with balance in the streets, and they think this is a step backwards, and a repressive law.