Madrid Mayor Ana Botella calls for ban on downtown protests
Violent incidents at “Dignity March” prompt demands for action against events in capital
Madrid Mayor Ana Botella is calling for a ban on street protests in the entire downtown area, following the violent incidents at last week’s so-called “Dignity Marches” against social spending cuts, which left more than 100 people injured and caused €166,000 euros worth of damage.
Botella, of the center-right Popular Party (PP), said “it is urgent to take measures” so that “the unlimited freedom of a few does not encroach on the freedom and rights of others.”
While the regional government, also in the hands of the PP, has lobbied to take demonstrations out of Sol square, the mayor is going further and asking that they be pushed out of the entire historical center of the city.
“The right to demonstrate can and must be regulated,” said Botella, who has asked to meet with Cristina Cifuentes, the central government’s delegate in Madrid and the person with the power to change a demonstration’s planned route.
“The right to demonstrate can and must be regulated,” said Botella
Delegation sources, however, noted that in such cases the courts nearly always rule in favor of protest organizers.
Asked where the mayor wants to take future protests, Botella fell back on a “case-by-case” argument.
“It is up to me to defend Madrileños’ daily lives, the tourism sector and our heritage. It is not necessary to change legislation, simply to determine each route on a case by case basis. The Spanish capital cannot tolerate for everyone’s public space to be systematically occupied by those who have made Madrid the target of their protests and turned Madrileños into their hostages,” she said.
In her opinion, the events of last Saturday “undermine the city’s image at a difficult time when we are trying to attract investment and tourists.”
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Spanish Police Confederation (CEP) has told EL PAÍS that two of the photographs shown by the police on different TV programs of weapons used at Saturday’s marches were not from the event.
Both photographs depict objects that were allegedly used in confrontations with the police during the Dignity March held in Madrid, and which resulted in 24 arrests. One image shows a slingshot with steel balls for ammunition, while another depicts a crutch concealing a 12-centimeter spike that can pierce bulletproof vests.
Spokesman Antonio Labrado said the pictures were sent in by police officers who participated in the protest containment operation. “Later they explained to me that they were taken during other police actions against radicals,” he said.