PP’s majority in Parliament passes Citizens’ Security Act amid protests

Lower chamber sends bill to Senate. Opposition rejects it unanimously as redundant and a return to police state, vows to repeal it

On Thursday, the day after the world celebrated Human Rights Day, the Spanish parliament passed the Citizens’ Security Act. Only the PP’s absolute majority voted in favour, while all the other parties opposed it because they regard the new legislation as “redundant” and “a journey to the past”, to a police state. They are not alone. The bill goes on to the Senate having been criticised by the civil society, NGOs and police unions. They called it a “gag law”, the “Citizens’ Repression Act” and even compared it to the law passed by General Franco in 1959. They think that it curtails people’s basic rights to demonstrate and free speech, giving the police “carte blanche” to “become a judge”. The entire opposition has vowed to repeal it in the next term, if the PP is no longer in office or loses its current majority.

ERC’s spokesman in Madrid’s parliament, Joan Tardà, said the new law was “political madness” and that it was “a return to an authoritarian state without checks”. Esquerra Plural’s spokesman on security affairs, Ricardo Sixto, accused the PP of “bringing back the old court of public order” from Franco’s days with such a “legal outrage”. PSOE’s MP Antonio Trevín stated that Rajoy’s government wants “a silent minority and silenced minorities” and vowed to appeal against it before the Constitutional Court once it is enacted. UPyD’s MP Toni Cantó asked the PP to look at themselves in the mirror: “It’s you, the Spanish government, who are under suspicion”.

CiU’s stance was less critical and was grateful that the amendments finally solved the conflict over whether certain powers are devolved or not. Initially, CiU backed the bill but eventually withdrew their support when a number of their proposals were turned down. Some of them demanded harsher penalties than those proposed by the PP, for instance in the case of street vendors of bootleg copies of CDs and DVDs. None of CiU’s MPs showed up last Wednesday outside the parliament’s Lions Gate to demand that the bill were dropped.

The PP claims this is a “groundbreaking bill” and that from now on “demonstrations will be freer and better protected”. In fact, the Spanish Home Secretary --who chose not to take part in the last debate in parliament, even though he was present-- has boasted that the new law will ensure “more and better” public security “since this is a demand of the people”. In the morning he defended the speedy deportation of illegal immigrants in an interview for Telecinco. Later, in the corridors of parliament, he stated that “some speak out of ignorance and malice and I get the feeling they haven’t actually read the bill”.

In the chamber, gags and people’s anthems against the Act

The last parliamentary step in the lower chamber saw a number of spontaneous protests. The Esquerra Plural MPs protested against the Act by wearing a toilet paper gag over their mouths and a choir called Solfònica, who were in the seats reserved to visitors, sang “Do You Hear The People Sing?”, one of the best-known libertarian anthems from Les Misérables, whose lyrics include the verse “a people who will not be slaves again”. The Speaker, PP member Jesús Posada, had the group expelled and was caught on an open microphone saying “bugger!” to PP MP Conrado Escobar, who had spoken in defence of the Bill.

Fines of up to 600,000€ for demonstrating

The Citizens’ Security Act specifies fines of up to €600,000 for unauthorised demonstrations in the vicinity of a nuclear power station and between 601 and 30,000 euros for any topless Femen members who crash public events or PAH activists who try to stop evictions. Public petitioning without permission can be penalised with a 100-600 euro fine, as well as sticking flyers or slogans on lamp posts and entering a bank while singing.

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