2011-08-20 The Pope's visit to #Madrid ends up with police brutality against peaceful protesters #JMJ #19a #15m

While Madrid is traditionally empty in August, the city is now literally packed with Catholic pilgrims of all ages, who have come from all around the world to attend the World Youth Days, presided by the Pope Benedict XVI. Authorities estimate that around 1.4 million people have flooded the city. From the very beginning the event has created resistance in the general public, as the investment of approximately 70-100 million euros is seen as exaggerated, in a time when politicians are demanding austerity measures for a country facing severe economic recession. They criticize, for example, that the centre of Madrid will be closed to traffic for more than four days, causing a lot of problems for normal citizens who have to work. Furthermore, the pilgrims have been given benefits that any unemployed Spaniard would desperately need: they have been given places to stay for free, food for free and while public transport in Madrid went up by 50% this month, being a pilgrim gives you a whopping 80% discount for all travels. This has caused major irritation in an already angry population, who are demanding answers as to why a constitutionally secular country should give this kind of support to any religion, while at the same time neglecting it’s own citizens.

The response was secular marches to protest against these issues on the supposedly impartial state and public expenditure on these kind of events. Thousands of people marched under the slogan “none of my taxes for the Pope”. Hundreds of social organizations, particularly Gay Pride groups also participated with their claims. However, when pilgrims and protesters clashed there were many tense situations that ended in the typical heated discussions about faith and religion in general.

On the 17th of August the tensions ended in police charges like the one depicted below. Mainly against pro-secular protesters. The day ended with six arrests and eight people wounded.

The amount of violence shown by the police further enraged citizens. On the 18th, a protest against police actions was called for and this ended with even more brutality. For example, the two video examples below (each has a translation in English).

Girl: - Aggressors! -You are aggressors! - Bastards!
[Says something about her rights]
Cop: She's a girl, she's a girl [more unintelligible words]
Girl: - What’s wrong?
Cop: What?
[Another cop comes and smacks her in the face for no reason]
Girl: [Screams] No!
Cop: Come on! Fuck off!
Cop: Get lost!
[In the confusion a journalist who was taking pictures gets assaulted and ends up on the floor]
Boy1: Record it, record it, record it!
Boy2: Shut up, they'll come after me
Boy2: [To the journalist] Hey hey! I recorded everything.
Journalist: [mutters something, clearly ]
Boy2: - Hey! let me see what have they did to you
Journalist: I have to go [barely audible]
Boy2: -Are you OK?
Journalist: -I don’t know.
Boy2: - Where have they hit you?
Journalist: -They slapped me on the head and I fell unconscious -I felt nothing
Boy2: Relax, relax, sit down.
Journalist: Why have they punched that guy?
Boy2: They are looking for all the people that were in the demonstration
Journalist: Yes, but a camera? Journalists? Journalists? Have you ever heard of such a thing here!??

REPORTER: Hey, who do you think you are? You can’t take that away from me!

POLICEMAN: I won’t take it, I don’t want it.
REPORTER: Why do you take it off my head?Who gave you the right to do that?... Hey I’m talking to you, tell me what are you doing?

POLICEMAN: I am missing data.

REPORTER: What data?

POLICEMAN: Where you live, your parent’s names...

REPORTER: And why do need that information? For what?


REPORTER: Hey, I know my rights!

POLICEMAN: Great, much better.

REPORTER: Very well then, could you tell me why you are taking my information?

[No answer]

REPORTER: Would you answer? Why do you need that information?

[No answer]

REPORTER: OK, so don’t answer then...


POLICEMAN: Give me your ID.

REPORTER: For what reason?

POLICEMAN: Because I have to identify you correctly.

REPORTER: Excuse me but...

POLICEMAN: This is not a complete identification! I need your parent’s name, where you live.

REPORTER: Do not raise your voice!

POLICEMAN: I need you to give me everything I am asking for, if I smack you then you’ll see (hard to translate, Spanish is “como te meta una hostia veras”). Take, take.. [stutters] out your ID now!

REPORTER: What did you just say to me?

POLICEMAN: I’m telling you to... [unintelligible]

[Violently pushes her against the car with more verbal threats and aggression]

REPORTER: What are you doing!? What!?

POLICEMAN: You are under arrest! [To other officer] Cuff her!

In both videos, officers who have sworn to defend citizens’ rights and vowed to uphold the law, are shown to be clearly violating these very same rights and laws. In both videos, the anonymous police officers are shown using an incredibly excessive amount of violence: in the first one against a teenage girl and a reporter just walking by and in the second one against a credited news-reporter, who never even showed any disrespect or bad intentions. Luckily for the reporter in the second video, she was taping the whole conversation. Without it she can easily be accused of being uncooperative with the authorities, and it would be her word against the policeman’s, even though he is clearly violating her constitutional rights and almost any international treaty on freedom of press. The fact that these policemen are acting without knowing they are being recorded is uncanny. With every protest they are becoming more and more aware that anyone can have a camera on them, which is why many have started to remove the personal ID badge from their uniform. This is illegal in Spain and for most people older than forty it is strangely reminiscent of past times, before the 1978 constitution, when Francisco Franco was still running the country with an iron fist.

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