Spanish police protest over ‘gag law’ reforms

by Deborah Cater
Spain's police protest over gag law reforms
del canto chambers 2

Thousands of Spanish police protest over ‘gag law’ reforms in Madrid on Saturday. They are against government plans to reform the controversial Citizens Security Law.

The previous conservative (PP) government passed the Citizens Security Law in 2015. For years, critics have said it gives too much power to security forces to the detriment of civil liberties.

Police unions, however, say the proposed changes to the law will make their job more difficult.

Podemos backs changes to ‘gag law’

Eugenio Zambrano, union leader from the Central Sindical Independiente y de Funcionarios (CSIF) said, “(this law) give us a number of uncertainties to work on a technical level and also for our physical security, but the citizens are the more affected.”

Amnesty International call for gag law to change

A new version of the law sponsored by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) recently won the support of Spain’s governing left-wing coalition. Amnesty International and Spain’s Ombudsman Office (Defensor del Pueblo) also called for the law to be altered.

The proposed law could still undergo changes during negotiations in the Parliament’s lower chamber. However, in its current form, it removes many of the most contentious elements of the law now in place.

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These elements include the ban on holding protests in the immediate vicinity of Congress or Senate buildings. The government are also in support of allowing spontaneous protests. Currently, organisers of protests or marches should inform the authorities beforehand.

Another article in the current law for modification is that allowing border guards to push back migrants who cross the frontier.

Freedom of expression

Police unions are against other planned modifications, particularly that which requires citizens to request permission to film and publish officers at work. Last year, the Constitutional Court in Spain ruled the requirement was unconstitutional.

However, police say officers could be easy to identify and therefore at risk of reprisals. This is strongly denied by supporters of the amendments. They say the new law would strike a better balance between safety and liberty.

“The reform that the government is preparing will only benefit violent protesters and criminals,” Pablo Pérez, spokesman of the JUPOL union for Spain’s National Police. “It puts citizens and especially police officers in serious danger because it ties our hands and feet when facing violence.”

Right-wing parties back police protest over gag law

Both the Popular Party, which passed the original security law, and the far-right Vox party sent their leaders to the rally.

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