18 Dec 2014

Three reasons Spain is on the edge of social unrest

Riot police clash with protesters in Barcelona after a raid on squatters – and demonstrators plan to hit the streets against anti-demo laws – what’s going on in Spain?


Around 2,000 people clashed with police on Tuesday evening following the arrest of eleven individuals suspected of “anarchist terrorism” living in squatted housing.

Dubbed ‘Operation Pandora,’ its mandate seeks to ‘disrupt a terrorist organization of anarchist character which has several bombings attributed to it’ said a judicial source.

One of the groups, ‘The Kasa of the Mountain’, active since 1989, said on their Twitter account that the operation aims to criminalize the anarchist movement.

Supporters on Twitter are also using the hashtag #YoTambiénSoyAnarquista (“I too am an anarchist”) in solidarity with the group.


A controversial law, passed last week, could see protestors fined of up to €600,000 for unauthorized demos outside public spaces such as hospitals, universities and parliament. The new law also forbids the photographing or filming of police officers in situations where doing so could put them in danger.

The citizen safety law, which has been called the ‘ley mordaza’ or ‘gag law’ by opposition groups and the media, was passed in the lower house of parliament last week by 181 votes for to 141 against.

It was opposed by all parliamentary groups except the ruling PP party, but it will now go to the Spanish senate where the PP has an overwhelming majority.

As the bill was discussed in parliament last week, members of the 15M protest movement’s Solfónica popular choir broke out into song with a chorus of “do you hear the people sing?” from the play Les Miserables (see video above).

Protestors are also using the hashtag #StopLeyMordaza (#StopTheGagLaw) on Twitter to denounce the act and are planning demos on Saturday.

Immigration debate

The number of immigrants living in Spain has increased by almost eightfold between 1990 and 2013, from less than one million to over six million. Before the global recession, Spain’s economy was mainly drawing migrants from Europe, North Africa and Latin America.

An amendment recently introduced to the citizen safety bill would make it legal for Spanish police to immediately deport migrants caught illegally entering north African territories of Melilla and Ceuta, a main gateway into Europe for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

Rights groups accuse Spanish police of routinely expelling back to Morocco immigrants who have entered the two territories illegally.

These expulsions are prohibited by 11 Spanish, European and international legal norms because they deny migrants their right to seek asylum, according to rights group Amnesty International.

United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said in October that it was “concerned” by the move to make on-the-spot expulsions legal.