Checking my email this morning, I found a message from a blog reader which wasn’t his usual fare. Instead of an article about writing, he’d sent me an ACLU petition in support of a state House Bill to secure a citizen’s right to film or take pictures of police actions. The communication was timely as I was writing a blog about a government crackdown in Spain. Parliament there had passed a new law that “all but bans the filming and photographing of officers.” (“Best Columns: Europe, The Week, April 24, 2015, pg. 13.) The penalty for defying the ban is the equivalent of $35,000 with an additional $600 to be imposed for disrespecting an officer.
The law targets “indignados,” young people who are protesting mass tenant evictions and high unemployment. Unfortunately, unlike like “Occupy Wall Street,” a similar protest that took place in New York a few years ago, the Spanish demonstrations have turned violent. Between 2012 and 2014, 869 individuals have been injured along with 631 police at a cost of over $50 million to restore order. (Ibid pg. 13) Marian Calleja, an ABC correspondent, labeled the new law as justified on the basis of this “shocking data.” (Ibid pg. 13.)
I disagree. Despite its benign name, the “Citizen’s Security Law,” isn’t about protecting people. Laws exist to prosecute violence. It’s a gag order meant to chill the right of assembly. In the light of that event, I hastened to sign the ACLU petition.
The Spanish government isn’t out of the woods, however. Spain’s youth, showing the panache of their tech savvy generation, have continued their demonstrations. Each night, web cams, project holograms of demonstrators upon a screen displayed before the Parliament building — a ghost assembly of 18,000 that breaks no law. Let the government decide how to arrest those demonstrators.
Thanks to the passion and ingenuity of Spain’s youth, a new era of demonstration has been born. Long live the human spirit.