Case 21

Police repression against neighbours demonstrating in Murcia

Police violence and arbitrary prosecutions during popular demonstrations calling for the undergrounding of railway lines.

As a result of the citizens’ mobilizations in 2017 and 2018, both the Governmental Delegation and the City of Murcia used the so-called “Gag Law” or “Ley Mordaza” (Organic Law 4/2015) to try to demobilize the citizens, as Amnesty International denounces in a recent report (March 2018) about the effects of this law’s implementation.

Description

There have been several residents’ groups and associations that have been petitioning for years in favor of the creation of a series of underground railway lines passing through the city of Murcia. If completed, this would bring an end to the historic isolation of the south of the city. The authorities – consisting of central, regional and local branches – have been reluctant to implement the undergrounding of the railways, due to the heavy costs such construction would incur. The conflict between the interests of the citizens and the authorities peaked in 2017 and 2018. At that time, violent police charges on peaceful demonstrators became a regular occurence, along with the issuing of arbitrary fines mounting to over 30,000 euros. Such police action was denounced by the Pro-Undergrounding Platform, Plataforma Pro-soterramiento. Finally, after years of citizen mobilisation, the government announced in mid-2018 that the AVE would connect to Murcia through the construction of a tunnel.

Image from: EFE / Marcial Guillén

Before

The neighborhood mobilisations in the city of Murcia began with force in the early 90s, in respons to the city council’s proposed urban project, that did not feature the undergrounding of city-centre railway lines. Various neighborhood associations proved successful in persuading the authorities to recognise the need for the construction of underground railway lines, in order to prevent the connections between the southern part of the city and the rest of the urban area from being broken. However, the AVE high-speed train project became an increasingly complex and frustrating issue. In their attempts to satisfy the concerns of Mucian citizens, the different authorities made various plans, yet they were consistently withdrawn shortly after being announced. Thus, the residents’ groups and associations continued in their campaign with demonstrations, the collection of signatures for petitions and myriad other forms of peaceful and legal participationThe moment of maximum tension between the authorities and the citizens took place in 2017 and 2018, when work on a surface line commenced without the inclusion of an environmental impact assessment as required by law.

The outcome

As a result of the citizen mobilisations in 2017 and 2018, both the Governmental Delegation and the City of Murcia used the so-called “Gag Law” or “Ley Mordaza” (Organic Law 4/2015) in an attempt to disarm the Murcian citizens. Amnesty International has denounced its use in a recent report (March 2018), due to the effects of its implementation. Police charges occurred as of 13th September 2017, in which citizens – who remained peacefully encamped as a form of protest – were injured. According to the Pro-Undergrounding Platform, the economic sanctions amounted to more than 30,000 euros in arbitrary fines. In July 2018, it was finally announced by the Government Delegation that the lines would indeed be undergrounded upon their approach into the city centre.

Violated laws

The promulgation of the Citizen Security Law involves a clear retreat in fundamental rights. This law, together with the reform of the Criminal Code, has given great powers to the police authorities to determine and fix high administrative sanctions without any mechanism of control or accountability. This fact has led to several abuses, as reported by Amnesty International on its report from March 2018. 

The fundamental rights, that should be specially protected by the authorities, are restricted by them. It is said that the ultimate goal of this law is to demobilize the citizens and to prevent them from exercising their legitimate rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. These rights are protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the Spanish Constitution.

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