GAY PRIDE

Understaffed police say security cannot be guaranteed during Madrid Pride

Municipal law enforcement agency says more officers are needed after receiving numerous reports of assault and robbery

Thousands gathered to celebrate Madrid Pride in Chueca.
Thousands gathered to celebrate Madrid Pride in Chueca.

The first days of Madrid Pride (MADO), which is currently taking place until July 8, have revealed a shortage of municipal police officers to keep in check the thousands of revelers who are celebrating in the streets of Chueca, the Spanish capital’s vibrant gay quarter.

Police officials and unions have complained about a lack of proper planning to address security issues at the popular LGBT pride event, which last year drew an estimated two to three million visitors to Madrid.

Our colleagues were deeply embarrassed because there was nothing they could do

Municipal police spokesperson

On Friday night, a day after the festivities officially kicked off, municipal officers were forced to ask for reinforcements and even considered calling in the National Police for assistance.

City officials said that there were only “isolated incidents” and that it would be erroneous to talk about a generalized lack of security. But municipal law enforcement officers say the situation was barely under control as the alcohol-fueled street party led to reports of assault and robbery, and even two stampedes.

Municipal police records of radio communications that night show how officers on patrol instructed colleagues to tell an ambulance to drive the wrong way on a one-way street in order to reach a young man in need of assistance, because it was impossible to reach the spot down other streets – some of which were undergoing construction work, while others were jammed with people. The victim had sustained a light injury under one ear and was taken to Gregorio Marañón Hospital.

The police also complained that there were no more than four to six officers stationed in Chueca and Del Rey squares, where more than 3,000 people were partying in the streets. These officers said that it was “impossible to intervene.”

“There aren’t enough patrols to operate in the square, and we lack adequate means. See if you can alert the on-duty chief and send officers who can control this, or else call the National Police,” said an officer in a message to headquarters, according to the records.

“It is impossible to operate here, given our numbers. It is full of people under the influence of alcohol and maybe something more,” added another office through the police radio channel.

Officers said that every three minutes or so a person would approach them to report that they’d been robbed or assaulted. And that was without counting all the cases of alcohol poisoning.

“Our colleagues were deeply embarrassed because there was nothing they could do while all these citizens kept complaining,” said a municipal police spokesperson.

City officials said that there were only “isolated incidents”

The law-enforcement officials also reported that there were at least two stampedes inside the squares, which they were helpless to stop.

“Such mayhem... and this is just the first big day of Pride. Not one single security system in place for the fiestas. Tomorrow this is going to get out of control unless there is more police, and I hate to think about next weekend, which is the really big one, if there is this same lack of control with this kind of attendance,” said one officer. “Whose security was guaranteed, exactly? Certainly not that of the people, much less that of the police officers.”

In addition to the Madrid Pride event, there were four major concerts taking place in the capital, which stretched the municipal police services’ resources thin. But police unions argue there should have been more forward planning. Last Thursday, the force had already warned that there would not be enough officers to guarantee security at the popular event.

A spokeswoman for the City of Madrid said that police presence in the city was reinforced “because of the large number of simultaneous activities,” and stated that security at Madrid Pride on Friday night “went ahead normally and successfully” despite a few “isolated incidents.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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