Thousands of police have descended on central Madrid in response to the government’s plans to make it legal for people to take images of officers on duty, a change that is part of an overhaul of a controversial gag law.
Spain’s left-wing cabinet has pitted itself against the country’s police force with its push to revamp the 2015 gag law, which, among other elements, prohibits the “unauthorized distribution” of the footage of officers. Members of more than 40 police unions, along with their supporters from the conservative People’s Party and the further-to-the-right Vox, marched through the streets of the Spanish capital on Saturday. Madrid’s mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida was also spotted at the protest.
Miles de policías marchan esta mañana por las calles de Madrid en protesta por la reforma de la Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana. De la Puerta del Sol al Ministerio del Interior. pic.twitter.com/ze1QEn7nsO
— Javier Arias Borque (@ariasborque) November 27, 2021
The organizers’ own estimates and those of authorities differed starkly, with anywhere between 20,000 and 150,000 reported to have attended the rally. Among the slogans heard and seen at the protest was “Spain is not a place of insecurity” The demonstrators claim Pedro Sanchez’ government is denying the police due protection with its plans to overhaul Spain’s Citizen Security Law. The leader of Spain’s People’s Party, Pablo Casado, went as far as to claim that the incumbent left-wing government is siding with the criminals and terrorists.
On Wednesday, a similar protest in support of police was held in Madrid. Another one is planned for December 14.
The Spanish government has refused to yield to police pressure, with Ione Belarra, the minister for social rights, describing the gag law, passed by the conservatives in 2015, as the “The transition has dealt the greatest blow to civil rights and political freedoms since then [to democracy].” She surmised the law was designed specifically to clamp down on social protest in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, which hit Spain particularly hard.
In addition to making it legal to capture police officers on duty in photos, the socialist-led Government also plans to abolish the notification system that required protestors to inform authorities prior to any gathering and introduce lower penalties for anyone found to be in violation of the law.