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Marches held across Spain to protest new security law

14 February 2015 20:06

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Spaniards have held demonstrations in the capital Madrid and 20 other cities to protest against a new government law which bans unauthorized public gatherings.

Hundreds of protesters marched in Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square on Saturday to condemn a plan by the government to increase penalties for participation in unauthorized demonstrations.

People in other cities, including Barcelona and Bilbao, also took to the streets to protest the new law which effectively bars citizens from gathering near strategic buildings such as that of the Spanish parliament.

The opposition groups as well as human rights activists have fiercely criticized the law which was approved by the parliament last week.

“The government remains set on silencing the voice of the people,” said Miguel Angel Soto, spokesman of the major environmental group Greenpeace Spain. Soto’s group has been engaged in numerous rallies in Spain, calling on the government to become more active in protecting the environment.

Critics have labeled the new measure as the “Gagging Law” as it imposes hefty fines on people participating in peaceful protests.

According to the new law, people demonstrating outside strategic buildings could be fined up to 600,000 euros. Publishing the images of security forces could inflict penalties of up to 30,000 euros. Insulting the police will also incur a penalty up to 600 euros.

Curbing anti-austerity protests

Spain has been also the scene of massive anti-government rallies over the past months with mostly opposing the increasing austerity measures by the administration, which have seriously lowered the standards of living in the country. Many say Spain could become another Greece, where anti-austerity measures by the government finally led to the victory of the far-right popular party, Syriza, in a recent election.

Some analysts say the new law is meant to restrict the rising trend of protests in Spain for the removal of the government for its failure in meeting people’s financial demands.

Tens of thousands marched in Madrid in late January in a rally called by the country’s anti-austerity party, Podemos. Similar protests were held in 2011 when Spain was at the height of economic crisis with a group called the Indignants filling the squares for weeks and demanding political change.

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