Firefighters scuffle with cops in Barcelona protest

Spanish firefighters set fires in the street and scuffled with police in Barcelona on Wednesday during protests against budget cuts that they say are threatening public safety.

Firefighters scuffle with cops in Barcelona protest
Police moved in with extinguishers and put out some of the burning coffins the firemen had set alight. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Hundreds of firefighters in yellow helmets and red jackets gathered in front of the Catalonia regional parliament, some letting off firecrackers and smoke bombs, and set fire to model coffins marked "public services".

There were light scuffles and police charged the protestors, detaining one, police and labour unions said.

Police moved in with extinguishers and put out some of the burning coffins.

The demonstration struck as the parliament was debating this year's regional campaign to prevent forest fires, a major threat during the dry summer. Several people were killed last year.

Labour unions representing the firefighters warned in a statement that cuts to staff and budgets in the economic crisis "put at risk the safety of workers and the people of Catalonia".

They said the plan involves "a big reduction in resources and above all an increase in the workload on staff".

The unions also complained that this year the emergency summer fire plan had been cut to cover just July and August, where previously it extended into June and September.

"There would have been more public calm if we had dispensed with firefighting aircraft and kept on more employees, but I would not have had a clear conscience," said the regional interior minister, Ramon Espadaler.

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Spain’s Civil Guard police officers allowed to have visible tattoos

Spain on Monday relaxed its policy banning officers from the country's oldest police force, the Guardia Civil, from exhibiting tattoos.

civil guard spain gun
The increasing popularity of tattoos has led police forces around the world to regulate their use. Photo: Rafa Rivas/AFP

Officers will now be allowed to display tattoos anywhere on their bodies “as long as they do not contain expressions that violate constitutional values or harm the discipline or image of the force,” the interior minister said in a statement.

“For the first time visible tattoos will be allowed on uniformed officers,” it added.

On the other hand, the decree prohibits hoop earrings, spikes, plugs and other inserts when they are visible in uniform, “except regular earrings, for both male and female personnel”.

The Guardia Civil mainly patrols and investigates crimes in rural areas, while Spain’s National Police focuses on urban areas.

Last year Spain’s leftist government appointed a woman to head the force for the first time in its 177-year history.

The increasing popularity of tattoos has led police forces around the world to regulate their use.

Los Angeles police are required to ensure that tattoos are not visible to the public while on-duty, while France’s Gendarmes police force also requires that they be covered.