21st June 2024
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Protests against amnesty turn ugly as police use tear gas and smoke canisters

Three people were arrested late on Monday in Madrid in an on-going protest against negotiations between Spain’s acting government and Catalan pro-independence parties over a possible amnesty for thousands involved in Catalonia’s independence movement. 

The arrests took place during a gathering by over 3,000 people in front of the national headquarters of Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) in the capital. Two men were arrested for violent behaviour against police, and one woman for disobedience, the representative of Spain’s national government in the Madrid region said.

At around 9.30pm in the Calle Ferraz, where the PSOE headquarters is situated, Spain’s national police launched tear gas, foam bullets and smoke canisters, later starting a charge to disperse the crowds from the street.

The Europa Press news agency said that police had detected 200 ‘ultra infiltrators’ among peaceful protestors at the demonstration in front of the PSOE headquarters, and ‘seized wooden sticks, an iron bar, extendable bars and a shovel’.

Santiago Abascal, the leader of the far-right Vox party which currently holds the third-most seats in the Spanish Congress, was at the rally. The Madrid protest has been organised by the ‘Revuelta’ group, reportedly a ‘youth movement’ supported by the Vox party, according to Spanish media. The protests against PSOE offices have expanded to other cities across Spain – including Seville, Barcelona, Badajoz, Murcia, Valencia and Zaragoza. There has been vandalism to the outside of several PSOE buildings, but no additional arrests have been reported. The Revuelta movement has insisted that their protests in the Calle Ferraz will continue. ALSO READ: Spain’s opposition parties condemn amnesty plan, as protests against PSOE increase.

Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, leader of the PSOE, blasted the protests, saying they were being led by ‘reactionaries’.

‘(I extend) all my warmth and support for the Socialist Party members who are suffering harassment by reactionaries at their local headquarters,’ Sánchez wrote on X (formerly Twitter). ‘To attack the headquarters of Spain’s Socialist Party is to attack democracy and all those who believe in it. But more than 140 years of history remind us that no one will ever be able to intimidate the PSOE.’

Sánchez is negotiating with the Catalan pro-independence parties to receive their backing in his bid to form a new government and keep his left-leaning coalition in power following an inconclusive national election in July. But the two parties – Esquerra Republicana (ERC) and Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) – have demanded a sweeping amnesty that would include their leaders who fled Spain following their failed 2017 secession attempt, in exchange for their votes in Parliament, among other concessions. ALSO READ: Puigdemont keeps Sánchez waiting on investiture deal.

That has angered many in Spain, including leading opposition parties on the right who accuse Sánchez of bending to lawbreakers.

Spain’s right-wing People’s Party (PP), the main opposition party, has called for its own protest against the amnesty negotiations for Sunday, in public squares in each provincial capital.

‘I am not going to allow that my country has to ask forgiveness to those who attacked its institutions,’ PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo said.

There had been other protests in recent weeks, but they had remained peaceful. ALSO READ: Right-wing and far-right politicians join thousands in anti-amnesty rally in Barcelona.

Sánchez has until 27 November to form a new government or the Parliament will be automatically dissolved and new elections called for mid-January.

ALSO READ: PSOE preparing draft Catalan amnesty bill ahead of Sánchez investiture vote.

ALSO READ: Spanish judge now wants to question Puigdemont as part of terrorism investigation.

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