Thousands of police officers and their supporters filled the streets of Madrid on Saturday to protest the Spanish government’s proposed amendments to a controversial security law.
This is the first time in Spanish history that members of all of Spain’s police forces (national, local, regional, and military) demonstrated together, according to Spanish daily El Mundo.
The changes to the law are still under discussion, but Spain’s progressive ruling coalition has vowed to undertake a major overhaul of the law that has been criticized by UN experts, the European Commission, and human rights groups.
Some of the most controversial points of the so-called "gag law" include hefty fines for journalists, or others, who take photos of police officers that could put them at risk, as well as strict limits on when and where protests can take place.
Besides getting rid of those laws, Spain’s government is also mulling whether to link criminal fines to income.
The police unions that organized the event believe the amendments will put police officers and law-abiding citizens at risk.
More than 150,000 protesters turned up, according to the organizers, while the government estimates the turnout was closer to 20,000.
"(The amendments) will send a message of impunity just as our forces are suffering more and more attacks ... The principle of our authority must be respected," read part of the protest’s manifesto.
"What is in danger is everyone’s rights and that violent criminals will take control of the streets."
The "gag law" was passed in 2015 by Spain’s conservative Popular Party government after a wave of anti-austerity protests gripped the nation.
All of Spain’s right-wing political leaders joined Saturdays’ protest.
"When a government lets criminals out of prison and leaves judges, police, and military agents behind, this government doesn’t deserve to stay in power," Pablo Casado, the head of the Popular Party, told media, referring to the release of jailed Catalan leaders.
"We are here to protest a law passed by the government and all the enemies of Spain and the constitutional order," said Santiago Abascal, the far-right leader of the Vox party./aa