The Solicitor General’s Office has rejected a request by Madrid Mayor Ana Botella to close off the city’s historical center to street protests, EL PAÍS has learned.
Following the violent incidents of Saturday’s Dignity March against cuts to social spending, which left 100 people injured, Botella asked the central government’s Madrid delegation to ban demonstrations in “historical-artistic settings, areas with significant tourism presence and strategic transportation routes” in the city. This would effectively push all future protests far from the center, particularly the Puerta del Sol square.
But a report by the state legal advisor, the Solicitor General’s Office, to which EL PAÍS has had access, considers this petition unrealistic. The document argues that a legal demonstration causes no more damage to the city’s historical and artistic heritage than the usual transit of people and vehicles, and that Madrid might as well close off the city center to such traffic permanently if it feels that this heritage is in danger.
The mayor’s proposal is nearly impossible to implement, say municipal sources
Botella’s request has been backed by Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz, who said on Thursday that “no right is absolute.”
“The Constitutional Court said it: my rights and freedoms begin where the other person’s rights and freedoms end,” he stated. Yet he also admitted that his own views will probably not be supported by the courts.
Municipal sources have admitted that Botella’s proposal to allow or prohibit street protests on a case-by-case basis is practically impossible to implement. In recent years the city center has been the setting for everything from protests against the Iraq War to Catholic Masses.