Catalan interior chief claims "guerrilla" element in 15-M protest
Public prosecutor to charge violent demonstrators as police fear new turn in peaceful movement
The Catalan regional interior chief, Felip Puig, admitted in a press conference on Thursday that there had been "insufficiencies" in the number of police deployed to protect deputies on their way to the debate on the 2011 budget on Wednesday and said that the Mossos d'Esquadra had not acted with more force against violent elements of the 15-M protest to avoid "a worse situation." Puig went on to assert that there were "professional" protestors among the 3,000 or so massed outside the Catalan regional parliament, whom he classed as "urban guerrillas with ferocious enthusiasm for a pitched battle."
Nevertheless, the interior chief stated that the 600 Mossos stationed outside the parliament building had protected a four-kilometer perimeter "dynamically" and achieved its goals.
hese were to prevent the forced entry of any unauthorized persons and to ensure the debate was able to take place as scheduled.
The police barricades in both Barcelona and Valencia, where another crowd had assembled, permitted the normal functioning of government. But the violent incidents that occurred will not be allowed to pass without consequence. The public prosecutor has invoked article 489 of the Constitution to pursue protestors for use of "violence or intimidation to impede a deputy from attending meetings," a crime that carries a jail sentence. However, the violent scenes of last Thursday, when police in Valencia charged the protestors, were in contrast to the scene outside the regional Cortes yesterday. "It's much better than the other day," said Laila, a protestor, who was caught in the violence last week. Protestors simply waved red cards against corruption as regional premier Francisco Camps, a suspect in the Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts scandal, arrived for his investiture.
"The focus should be on 45 million Spaniards, not a certain group, who- due to certain circumstances, which I think I am aware of but will not mention- is doing something that has nothing to do with what we have learned in recent years," said Camps. Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who was accosted by a protest group of gay-rights activists unrelated to 15-M in Madrid on Monday, also faced a barrage of insults at his investiture in Madrid.
"Those that practice violence, even if it is verbal, do not represent the 15-M movement," said Socialist deputy Clara Tirado. The Madrid branch of the movement said it had not authorized the violence in Barcelona and in a statement condemned "all acts of violence and pressure outside the law, human rights and democracy." The Barcelona wing of the movement also condemned the "minority acts of violence" and pointed out that many protestors had intervened to prevent an escalation of the unrest.
Police have thus far praised the "peaceful, almost festive" nature of the protests, but some high-ranking officers have spoken of the "worrying" violent turn the movement has taken in recent days. "Until now there has been enormous tolerance and even sympathy for 15-M," these sources said.
The Popular Party accused Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, who is also Interior Minister, of passivity in the face of the protests. The PP congressional spokeswoman, Soraya Saénz de Santamaría, called on the government to maintain public order "with proportionality" and not to confuse "passivity with prudence."
Rubalcaba countered that the government has the authority to deal "firmly with those who show violent and intimidating behavior and with intelligence and prudence with those who behave peacefully."
Congressional speaker José Bono and his Senate counterpart, Javier Rojo, have proposed a cut in politicians' pension supplements, the publication of the assets of elected officials and the restriction of activities incompatible with a seat in Congress to "send a message" to the 15-M movement that the political class has "heard" their complaints.