Spain
Concerned about growing unrest, Spain's government infiltrates Madrid's protests
With left-wing Podemos party in power, it is feared that the protests in Salamanca will give rise to a new movement of the 'Indignant' but from the far right.

The 'cacerolazo' protests against President Pedro Sánchez became a real concern for the Spanish Government, and also for the National Police, in the middle of last week, when a large group of people turned Núñez de Balboa Street in Madrid into the epicenter of demonstrations that, in the middle of a health alert and despite the high risk of contagion from Covid-19, have been reproduced first in the capital, and then in the main cities of Spain.

The speed with which this type of protest has spread has led to an unexpected mobilization of police and not just riot police: according to sources consulted by LPO, the National Corps has decided to send agents from the intelligence units to the rallies being held throughout the country.

The aim, senior police officials explain to LPO Spain, is to identify the organizers and promoters of these demonstrations, to detect any kind of "coordinated action" at the national level. One goal, they admit, is not proving to be easy: "Both in social media and the rallies themselves, people only encourage people to attend, but nobody actually summons them". A strategy which, they admit, "is not new" and "makes any kind of action more difficult".

Sources indicated that there were "important similarities" in the organization of these street protests with those of March 15, 2011: "In both cases, there is no clear leader. Neither are demonstrations or meetings that have been requested to the different government departments, so they could not be prohibited either". They are, therefore, "unauthorized concentrations, but not explicitly prohibited either, and for which, therefore, there are no eviction orders". A circumstance that "limits and hinders" police action.

Faced with this situation, the National Police has opted for a double mobilization: the riot police - some 200 men in Madrid alone - and intelligence agents. The former has been deployed in the country's main cities "not to attack", but to "guarantee security" in these demonstrations: "As in the March 15 protests, no one has ordered evictions or charges. On this occasion, the aim is to regulate these concentrations, avoiding the detention of people who do not guarantee compliance with the obligatory safety distances due to the health crisis". In fact, they added, " sanctions are only imposed on those who disobey the authorities, stop at the marches, and do not comply with the safety distances".

As for the intelligence agents, their objective is clear: "They must detect the leaders of these demonstrations, try to find out who is organizing them, and determine if there are connections with other concentrations". In that sense, they add, social media sites are also being monitored, where, for the time being, "many people are identified who encourage these protests, but it is true that it is more difficult to specify who is organizing them".

If the organizers are identified, "with sufficient evidence", a sanction could be imposed: "Anyone who calls a demonstration without authorization can be fined, but little else can be done". Something that does not change despite the state of emergency: "The [COVID-19] decree does not prohibit demonstrations, so there is some legal uncertainty, and we cannot go much further". The problem, they add, "is that it is now more difficult to control all these demonstrations.

Officials recall that, at the beginning of last week, with the first protests in Núñez de Balboa, "the Government Delegation in Madrid looked the other way and did not send troops until Thursday". By then, however, it was too late: "What starts in Madrid, spreads quickly throughout Spain. It happened with the 15-M protests and it is happening again now". Despite the huge differences between the two movements and their participants, "our involvement is just as limited, and that's something that everyone can sense". 

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