SOCIAL UNREST

More than two dozen injured as Congress protest turns violent

Around 2,000 demonstrators clash with riot police in demonstration against Citizens Safety Law

Police clash with protestors in Madrid on Saturday night (Spanish language).Photo: ULY MARTÍN | Video : ATLAS (atlas)

Six people were released on Sunday after they were detained during a violent demonstration in front of Congress Saturday night. One other person was expected to appear before a judge later on Sunday to face vandalism charges, Efe news agency reported.

About 2,000 demonstrators clashed with riot police in front of Congress during a demonstration called to protest against the proposed Citizens Safety Law, which lawmakers are expected to debate this week.

Some 1,500 officers battled with the protestors late Saturday night when trouble broke out at the public rally, which had been convened by organizers of the 25-S protest movement.

Congress, where the ruling Popular Party (PP) has a majority, is expected to pass the law early next year. Among other things, the legislation proposes hikes in fines for people who demonstrate without a permit and sets new rules about such public rallies, which many claim curtail protest rights.

At least two dozen people were injured in the protests — 14 of them were National Police officers — when angry youths began smashing bottles and throwing Molotov cocktails at law enforcement officials, who were standing behind a barricade in front of Congress in downtown Madrid.

The demonstrators began gathering near the Neptune fountain at around 8pm chanting anti-government slogans, including calling on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to resign. But the violence began when about 20 people tried to stop a municipal police vehicle from entering an area where the protestors had gathered. The demonstrators began beating the sides of a vehicle and its windows while a group tried to overturn it with the officers still inside.

When riot police came to the rescue, the protestors began burning recycling containers. Demonstrators also threw bottles and other debris at police and burned nearby trash cans.

While the protest was being held, road traffic was cut off from the Cibeles roundabout to Alcalá street. The protestors tried to enter Congress by rushing through the barricade, but they were held up by officers in riot gear.

Nearby businesses shut down as the disturbance worsened. Owners protected their establishments by pulling down their steel shutters.

Hundreds of demonstrators were carrying placards demanding that the PP government abandon the proposed bill. “These fascists want to muzzle citizens’ voices;” and: “Madrid will become the tomb of fascism,” read several of the signs they carried.

In the Puerta del Sol, demonstrators continued their protest as people gathered to watch the lights and street shows that were being held for the Christmas holidays. But police vehicles encircled the square in an effort to keep the demonstrations from getting out of hand.

Organizers of the 25-S platform insisted throughout the evening that their demonstration was a peaceful one. One spokeswoman said: “No matter how many laws this fascist government passes, the people will continue to come out on the streets.”

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