Municipal politics

Madrid city security chief forced to hide out in bar during police protest

Officers pursue commissioner over his plans to dismantle municipal riot units

Video: Barbero leaves the bar where he sought refuge (Spanish captions).
F. Javier Barroso

Madrid City Hall security commissioner José Javier Barbero and municipal police chief Andrés Serrano were forced to seek refuge inside a restaurant after a group of protesting police officers chased after them following a noisy demonstration in the city center on Tuesday.

The officers were protesting against a decision by the Madrid security commission to dissolve the municipal riot squads (UCS).

Hurling insults and demanding their resignations, demonstrators followed the two public officials down the capital’s Calle Mayor and tried to prevent them from leaving the area.

Barbero was unable to leave the establishment until his official vehicle arrived

The incident occurred at around 11am, when the city’s security commission ended a meeting in which changes to UCS squads were discussed. Outside, around 500 protestors held a demonstration against the move.

Last December, leftist Mayor Manuela Carmena ordered the UCS to be scaled down to around 80 officers – half its original size – and prohibited them from monitoring people at public demonstrations and home evictions across the city.

As they left the meeting, Barbero and Serrano were soon confronted by the angry demonstrators.

Barbero was surprised when he saw that his official car was not waiting for him when he reached Calle Mayor. His bodyguards, who protected him from the rowdy crowd, had to call for another vehicle.

But when he realized that the second vehicle was late in arriving, the commissioner started walking toward the central Puerta del Sol square. Protestors tried to block his way while calling him “a fascist” and other names.

Passers-by were taken aback by the pandemonium that erupted.

Mayor Manuela Carmena ordered the riot unit to be scaled down to about 80 officers last year

Before they reached Sol, an aide to Barbero and Serrano advised them that they should wait in a nearby café until the vehicle arrived. However, they were refused admission because the premises were not yet open for business.

They proceeded to seek refuge at a second bar, where they waited for the vehicle. Barbero did not leave the establishment until his car reached the front of the building with the help of members of the National Police’s riot squad.

Protestors once again began insulting him and tried to block him from leaving the premises, but bodyguards helped the politician get inside the vehicle. The crowd kicked and rocked the car before it drove off.

Some police officers on duty at the time came up to applaud the actions of their colleagues. The demonstration later broke up without further incident.

English version by Martin Delfín.

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS