The police in Valencia have made more arrests during the past few days of student protests than were made during all of the demonstrations in 2011 – a year that saw the 15-M popular movement spring up, as well as a number of marches against government cutbacks.
Since last Wednesday, when the police arrested a minor studying at the Lluís Vives school, the number of detainees has risen to 38 (including eight youths aged under 18).
The chief of police in Valencia, Antonio Moreno, refused to be drawn on the reasons behind such a high number of arrests when asked by the press on Monday. “Why do you think?” was his terse response to a journalist, before saying: “During the previous conflict, with the 15-M, we also had to use force when we were attacked.”
Moreno also refused to give details regarding the number of officers that were deployed to break up the student demonstrations, to protest against cuts in education spending, which have left many schools in such a dire situation that they do not have any heating. He said that he was unwilling to “give that information to the enemy.”
The police chief appeared on Monday with the government delegate for the Valencia region, Paula Sánchez de Léon, who made no comment until the end of the press conference, when she said that she hoped that the incidents, which saw a number of students injured from police charges, “ended up being an anecdote that is not repeated.”
Moreno defended the actions of the police, and denied that the officers had charged against the protestors in previous days given that they were not equipped with riot gear until Monday. “An increase in aggression demands a response,” the police chief said, pointing out that five officers ended up with light injuries on Monday, while a 52-year-old woman had been hurt after being hit with a bottle. “On previous days, whatever anyone says, there was no police charge, but rather a proportional response.
“There have been complaints because people cannot move around the city,” he continued. “And they have been insulted [by the students]. This is uncivil behavior on the part of 14- and 15-year-olds,” he said. “I hope that tomorrow [Tuesday] it will not be necessary to go on the defensive once more.”