Spain: Brutal Police Repression Against Journalists Covering “Secular March”

The police's brutal response [es] to the protests Madrid, Spain, which started since the beginning of the month and came into full force with the detention of journalist Gorka Ramos [es] (subsequently freed [es]), has led to a disproportionate persecution of journalists and reporters [es] covering the protests. Repression was unleashed during the Secular March [es] on August 17, sparked by the Pope's recent visit [es] to Spain.  But, what is the “Secular March”? Francisco Blanco Prieto explains [es] in his blog:

No es una manifestación anti-Dios, ni anti-Papa, ni anti-Rouco, ni anti-religión, ni anti-cristiana. Es una marcha en defensa de la Constitución que consagra un Estado laico, liberado de subvenciones, injerencias, servidumbres, condenas y bendiciones de toda doctrina, sea ésta cual fuere.

It is not a demonstration that is anti-God, anti-Pope, anti-Rouco [Archbishop of Madrid], anti-religion, nor anti-Christian.  It is a march in defense of the Constitution dedicated to a secular State, freed from subventions, interferences, submission, condemnations and blessings from all doctrines, whatever they may be.

Nevertheless, this protest was accused [es] of being “intolerant” and an act of provocation [es].  With these antecedents, it was almost logical to expect some type of confrontation between those in favor of the Secular March and members of the 2011 World Youth Day who also marched in the surrounding area of Madrid's square Puerta del Sol at the same time.  The event finally concluded with a harsh police reaction [es] against the 4000 to 8000 protestors.  Nonetheless, something that was not expected were the actions taken by the police against the journalists in charge of covering the events.
Pau Llop from Bottup [es], a site of citizen journalism in Spain, tells us about the police's violent strategy to quiet journalists and witnesses of their citizen repression in an article titled: “Ahora te vamos a pegar sin que te vean, ‘periolisto'” (“Now we're going to beat you while no one is watching, you clever journalist”) [es]:

Te duele, ¿eh?, ahora sí que te vas a enterar…” Me hacen mucho daño. Me estampan la cabeza contra la puerta de la furgona, con las manos atrás.

Ya os decía yo que iba a ganar la porra

Si te decimos que te pongas a la pata coja, te pones, entendido

Tanto el titular de este artículo como las frases que lo empiezan son palabras recogidas por dos de los periodistas agredidos ayer por agentes de la Unidad de Intervención Policial (antidisturbios) en el centro de Madrid, a escasos metros de la Puerta del Sol y en el recorrido de la manifestación laica -legal y autorizada por la Delegación del Gobierno- contra los gastos de dinero público ocasionados por la visita hoy del Papa de Roma a la capital española para presidir la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud.

It hurts, huh? Now you will really feel how badly…” They caused me so much pain.  They slammed my head against the van door, with my hands behind my back.

I already told you that I was going to win the draw

If we tell you to hop, you hop, understood?

The title of this article, as well as the dialogue that opens it, are words recounted by two of the journalists who were assaulted by agents from the Police Intervention Unit (riot police) in the center of Madrid, barely meters from the Puerta del Sol, along the path of the secular demonstration — legal and authorized by the Delegation of the Government — against the spending of public funds for the Pope's visit from Rome to preside over the 2011 World Youth Day.

In the following video from August 4, viewers can already observe the type of confrontations between the police and the demonstrators, including journalists [es]:

Accounts from some of the detained or assaulted journalists are also circulating on the Internet, such as that of Jonás Candalija [es] after being released from the police, and Lidia Ucher [es], a journalist that was also seen being struck by the police.  This video from Youtube user [es] portrays an instant in which the reporter is carried away by the police [es]:

This other video from Youtube user  [es] shows the police patrolling the streets of Madrid in search of protestors and the aggressive actions they take against those who they believe to have taken part in the demonstrations, as well as those who report on the events [es]:

In the publication Periodismo Humano (Humane Journalism), a note [es] can be found regarding the previous video, with commentary from the journalist who was hit after photographing the police aggression against an adolescent girl walking along the street.  There are already some who are asking for proof of identification (TIP) from police officers and riot agents [es] as a result of these events.  The prior link includes a petition to Antonio Camacho, the Spanish government's Minister of the Interior.

Youtube user  [es] has uploaded various videos, among them one of which shows the verbal encounters between the participants of the Secular March and the members of the Catholic youth, and another that portrays the police repression that followed [es]:

In August alone already six journalists have denounced police aggression [es], and given that the government assures that agents act with “prudence and determination,” it does not seem that the situation will get better any time soon.

Pau Llop from Bottup collaborated on the links for this article.
The photo used as a thumbnail is from Flickr user pollobarba and was used under the Atribución-NoComercial-SinDerivadas 2.0 Genérica (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license from CC.


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