Mon, Oct 01, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Police attack shocks Spain

‘SHAME’:A video shows police beating people without even knowing whether they are protesters, and protesters say undercover police incited demonstrators to violence

The Guardian, MADRID

The middle-aged man sitting on a railway station bench protects a younger man by wrapping his arms around him as he shouts desperately at the helmeted, baton-wielding police officers running up and down the platforms at Madrid’s Atocha station.

“Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you,” he bellows repeatedly in a video that shows how police charged into the station during violent demonstrations that shook Madrid last week.

On the other side of the ticket barrier, a younger man is whacked with truncheons by two policemen.

“I don’t know whether he is a passenger or a protester,” one of them says.

A third man who was waiting for a train is bundled down the platform by police officers as he asks: “And what have I done?”

A youth points to blood running down his face.

“What the hell is this?” he asks.

On Friday, police told a judge they had needed to chase a group of violent protesters across the railway tracks and had later arrested some in a nearby bar. They, too, had suffered injuries.

“People who had been hurling stones at police tried to hide in the station, passing themselves off as normal passengers,” a spokesman said. “We had to go in.”

As Spaniards respond with dismay to the violence shown by demonstrators who launched attacks on police and the response of some riot police during scuffles in the area around Madrid’s parliament building last week, the long-running drama of Spain’s deflating economy has lurched into a newly confrontational stage, amid fears that there will be more violence to come.

While police and the conservative government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy were accused of authoritarian behavior, radical protesters from both the far left and the far right were putting a hard, street-fighting edge onto the once peaceful protests of the civilized, but ineffectual indignados.

Cristina Cifuentes, the government delegate in Madrid, had warned before the protests that they were being infiltrated by violent members of Spain’s far right and were attracting the country’s most radical left-wingers. However, protesters later pointed to a group of undercover policemen who, they said, had been at the front of the protest waving red flags and encouraging others to violence.

Other police certainly thought their undercover colleagues were troublemakers, and there is also film of one of them being dragged out of the crowd to be arrested and shouting: “I am a colleague, I am a colleague.”

One 72-year-old man was among about 30 demonstrators who had been accused of attacking police and given bail.

“But I was sitting down when they arrested me,” he said.

The radicalization came amid worries that the ratings agency Moodys would downgrade Spain’s creditworthiness, reigniting the pressure on Spain’s debt and sending the interest rates that it must pay spiraling up again.

Ministers have already said that 10 billion euros (US$12.85 billion) of cuts and tax increases must come in next year’s budget. On Friday night, they said a coming round of bank bailouts, paid for by the eurozone rescue fund, would send the country’s debts shooting up by about 50 billion euros. Spending is to be cut by 7 percent next year, bringing with it another wave of cuts in health, education and other welfare services. Spain’s civil servants have been told that, for the third year running, their wages were being frozen.

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