Case 21

Police violence against neighbours demonstrating in Murcia

Police violence and arbitrary denunciations 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

Several groups and associations of residents of the city of Murcia have been mobilizing for years in favour of the undergrounding of railway lines passing through the city, to prevent the city from being divided in two and the South of the city centre being isolated. The authorities, both the central, regional and local authorities have been reluctant about the undergrounding, due to its cost. The conflict between the interests of the citizens of Murcia and the authorities peaked in 2017 and 2018. At that time there were violent police charges on peaceful demonstrators, and arbitrary fines mounting to over 30,000 euros, as denounced by the Pro-Undergrounding Platform, Plataforma Pro-soterramiento. Finally, after years of claims, the government announced in mid-2018 that the AVE would reach Murcia through a tunnel.

 

Image from: EFE / Marcial Guillén

Before

The neighbourhood mobilizations in the city of Murcia began with force in the early 90s, when the city council proposed an urban project that did not contemplate the undergrounding of the railway lines on their arrival in the city centre. Various neighbourhood associations managed to get the authorities to recognize the need for the railway lines to be built underground so as to prevent the cohesion and connections between the southern part of the city and the rest of the urban area being broken. However, the AVE high-speed train project added complexity to the problem, and the different authorities made and withdrew various plans, in  view of the concern of the affected neighbours, who continued to campaign with demonstrations, collection of signatures and other forms of peaceful and legal participation. The moment of maximum tension between the authorities and the citizens took place in 2017 and 2018, when work on a surface line started, described by the authorities as provisionally, without the environmental impact assessment required by law.

The outcome

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. Police charges occurred as of 13 September 2017, in which citizens who were peacefully encamped as a form of protest were injured. The economic sanctions amounted to more than 30,000 euros in arbitrary fines, according to the Pro-Undergrounding Platform. Finally, in July 2018 it was announced by the Government Delegation that the lines would reach the city centre underground.

Violated laws

This conflict resulted in various abuses by the authorities on a citizenship that was struggling peacefully for what they believe is beneficial for their city. In particular, as reported by Amnesty International, the fundamental rights of freedom of information, expression and peaceful assembly deteriorated in Spain as a result of the application of the “Gag Law” (Organic Law 4/2015).

As for the railway layout project, it lacked environmental impact assessment, a violation of the current European legislation on this kind of infrastructure.

 

References

Pro-Undergrounding platform (in Spanish):

http://www.soterramientomurcia.es

Casualties of police repression on 13/9/2017 (in Spanish):

https://www.eldiario.es/murcia/sociedad/Heridos-represion-policial-acampada-Ave_0_686632378.html

Amnesty International’s complaint (in Spanish):

https://www.laverdad.es/murcia/ciudad-murcia/amnistia-internacional-denuncia-20180629133653-nt.html

Regional minister for public works Pedro Rivera said AVE trains will arrive at Murcia’s El Carmen station on a temporary track and a tunnel. Costa Blanca News, 7 April 2017 (in English):  https://www.pressreader.com/spain/costa-blanca-news-south-edition/20170407/282900910444994   

AVE High-speed rail line in Murcia: protests and vandalism endanger the project. Murcia Today, 5 October 2017 (in English): https://murciatoday.com/ave-high_speed-rail-line-in-murcia-protests-and-vandalism-endanger-the-project_124606-a.html

Widespread Protests Cause Alteration of High-speed Rail Plans in Murcia. Murcia Today, 11 October 2017 (in English): https://murciatoday.com/widespread-protests-cause-alteration-of-high_speed-rail-plans-in-murcia_124681-a.html

Amnesty report slams Spanish government for restricting freedom of expression. El País, 13 March 2018 (in English): https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/03/13/inenglish/1520936326_639973.html  

Documents

Pro-Undergrounding Platform’s report “23 Years of Mobilizations” (in Spanish):

http://www.soterramientomurcia.es/breve-historia-las-movilizaciones-ciudadanas/

Pro-Undergrounding platform, complaint (in Spanish):

http://www.soterramientomurcia.es/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/DENUNCIA-2017-11-03.pdf

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