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PROTESTS

VIDEO: Rights group blast Barcelona police for ‘unjustified’ violence

Human rights groups have called on Spanish authorities to curb police brutality after the violent protests that flared in Barcelona and to protect the right to peaceful protest.

VIDEO: Rights group blast Barcelona police for 'unjustified' violence
A protester is hit by a police baton during a demonstration last week. Photo: AFP

Once again the world has seen images of riot police in Barcelona charging protestors during the demonstrations mobilised after the Supreme Court sentenced 12 Catalan political leaders for sedition for their role in the independence movement.

Peaceful protests gave way to angry demonstrations that saw masked protesters taking to the streets intent on causing damage, throwing projectiles at police, torching cars and buring rubbish bins as crowds were mobilised through social media by anew mysterious organisation called “Democratic Tsunami”. 

Authorities responded by sending in riot police armed with tear gas and rubber bullets to control the protests. 

Images shared on social media show police chasing down protesters and battering them with batons and two people have lost vision in one eye after being caught in the face by rubber bullets fired into the crowds during clashes with police last week.

 

 

Complaints have been made about the actions of both the National Police and the Catalan police force, Mossos d’Esquadra.

Amnesty International has called on authorities in Spain “to take every necessary measure to support peaceful assembly and allow all people to freely and safely express their beliefs.”

“The mobilizations have been exceptionally peaceful, and though there have been certain acts of violence that have put certain people at risk, security forces must act with moderation,” said Esteban Beltrán, Director of Amnesty International Spain.

“We are conscious of the challenges faced by security forces, but excessive use of force and the inappropriate use of anti-riot weaponry by the police is never justified.”

According to the regional health authorities by Friday, over the past week, nearly 600 people have been hurt, including dozens of police officers. 

“It is very concerning the way anti-riot munitions are being used during these demonstrations. It is essential that all security forces show total adherence to the principles of necessity and proportionality in the use of force so that they respond to acts of violence appropriately and so that they thereby allow peaceful protesters to continue to demonstrate,” said Marie Struthers, Director of Amnesty International Europe.

Police have been slammed for using the practice colloquially known as the “carousel,” which entails advancing police vans toward a crowd to disperse it. Images show several people being mown down by vehicles.

“Amnesty International considers this an extremely dangerous manoeuver that can harm bystanders and those who are peacefully demonstrating.”

Local human rights groups including Síndic de Greuges have also denouncing police action against journalists reporting on the demonstrations.

Press freedom watchdog MediaCat reported 58 incidents of journalists being attacked during the demonstrations, including at least a dozen incidents at the hands of police.

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A masked protester poses as flames leap from a Barcelona street. Photo: AFP

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ENVIRONMENT

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.

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