dignity marches

“I heard a shot and the rubber bullet hit me square on”

Young protestor loses his left testicle during rioting at Madrid’s Dignity March

Gabriel Ruiz, pictured in Madrid’s Gregorio Marañon hospital.
Gabriel Ruiz, pictured in Madrid’s Gregorio Marañon hospital.M. G-R.

Gabriel Ruiz, 23, lost his left testicle last Saturday during the Dignity March, a large protest against the government’s social spending cuts that ended in scenes of violence and left more than 100 people injured.

Ruiz said that his own injury was caused by a rubber bullet fired by the riot police.

“I wanted to demonstrate against the government. But I couldn’t take any days off work, so in the end I only came to the Madrid march,” he explains. Other demonstrators walked for days from as far away as Cádiz, in Andalusia.

But Ruiz has ended up losing work days anyway. He was scheduled for more surgery on Thursday, and according to his sister, doctors have said that they might have to remove part of his right testicle as well.

Gabriel had driven to Madrid with his friend Alba from a village named Báscones de Ojeda (Palencia), where he works in the fields. All he had in the trunk was a bottle of water and a few sandwiches that his sister had made for them. The sister did not take part in the protest.

Some mothers were running and pushing their baby strollers away from the commotion

While the march was peaceful, the mood was indignant. By 8.30pm, the protestors had reached their destination, Plaza de Colón square in central Madrid.

“The police began to scatter us. Some mothers were running away pushing their baby strollers. We started to see flares in the sky, we ran and we defended ourselves,” says Ruiz. “[The police] advanced; we stopped them, they advanced again, and we stopped them again. I was hit on the head with a nightstick and I ran away; then we regrouped and around 50 meters from Cibeles, while I was just walking, I heard a shot and felt the rubber bullet hit me. It did not ricochet, it hit me squarely.”

After that he was left in a world of pain.

His friend Alba confirmed that she and another young man helped Gabriel get up and dragged him toward an emergency unit stationed at Cibeles square. An ambulance took him to a medical center in Atocha were he was sedated, and Alba called Gabriel’s sister, who showed up immediately.

“It was 9.04pm when I got the call; they gave me his paperwork and we came to this hospital,” says the sister, speaking at Gregorio Marañón health center.

“I am not against the police, we are not enemies. The government is the enemy,” adds Gabriel, as he waits for this nightmare to end so he can go back to work. One thing he is sure of: he is going to file a formal complaint. “I will not give up.”

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