Why the police violence in Barcelona was a big mistake

by Jerome Roos on May 27, 2011

Post image for Why the police violence in Barcelona was a big mistake

The violent assault on peaceful protesters will only further reinvigorate the 15-M movement and boost the resolve of the Spanish youth uprising.

NOTE: List of videos of the police violence here.

What had been a 12-day long peaceful protest against austerity, corruption and a lack of economic opportunity and political representation, today saw its first outbreak of violence, as Spanish riot police cleared out the incredibly positively-spirited protest camp at the Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona.

But while the mainstream media spoke of ‘clashes‘ between protesters and police, the violence was really rather one-sided: the vast majority of the 120+ injured were peaceful protesters. While the people in the square wielded flowers, the police came crashing in wielding full-armor protective gear, batons, shields, pepper spray and rubber bullet shotguns.

Clearly, it was the stupidest thing Spanish authorities could have decided to do at this point. While the attack was explained as an attempt to ‘clean up’ the square ahead of tomorrow’s Champion’s League final, there were clearly ulterior (political) motivations behind the sheer brutality of the attack (I’ll let the images speak for themselves, no need to delve into this point any further).

The unprovoked violence of the ‘Mossos d’Esquadra’ will only further reinvigorate the determination of the 15-M movement to push for real democracy now. The popular Facebook group Spanish Revolution today posted the following ‘call to arms’ (although it was very clear to tell its followers to refrain from using violence and only to use passive forms of resistance and civil disobedience):

In this respect, there are a number of clear lessons to draw from the past. In their early stages, the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions actually thrived because of the excessive use of force of the state security apparatus. The images of brutality helped radicalize large segments of the population that would otherwise never have engaged with the protests.

The exact same happened in Madrid last week. When riot police cleared some 150 peaceful protesters off the square in the night from Monday the 16th to Tuesday, the protesters — instead of backing down — came swarming back in the thousands. People just kept pouring into the Puerta del Sol until late in the night, occupying the square and still refusing to budge.

Today, while the international media was slow to pick up on the crackdown, footage of police brutality quickly spread around on social media. Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere were abuzz with outrage at the entirely unprovoked and unnecessary violence, especially against women — and even a protester in a wheelchair carrying nothing but a flower in his hand.

Within hours, the Facebook group of the AcampadaBCN, which had previously counted only a few thousand members, boomed to over 38,000 followers. An online petition denouncing the police violence has already been signed by some 40,000 people. By the late afternoon, thousands of peaceful protesters had retaken the square and forced police into a humiating retreat.

Right now, as I write this on Friday night, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters have flocked to the Plaça de Catalunya to show their defiance and resolve. Now this is no longer just about idealism or changing the world. This is about preserving our most basic human rights to freedom, physical integrity and a dignified life.

By doing what they did, the authorities only confirmed what the 15-M movement has been arguing for almost two weeks now: “they call it a democracy and it’s not.” The movement will only swell in numbers. Now, more than ever before, it will have something to fight for, which is particularly important as the endless general assemblies of recent days had slowly begun to wear out morale.

This morning, the authorities showed that they’re afraid of us. The resort to violence is an attempt to exert physical authority in the absence of political legitimacy. They’re hoping to scare us off, to put the youth of Spain and Europe back in its place. But the genie is out of the box by now and any attempt to stuff it back in will only make it bounce back with even greater thrust and resolve.

Today, Spain, Europe and the world were handed the images of injustice that will become the very symbols of our peaceful resistance. This will only strengthen our resolve. La lucha continua. The revolution is only just getting started, and the people are back in control of the streets:

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Panayiotis May 27, 2011 at 22:21

The police violence in Spain today makes me mad. Those kinds where peaceful.
The Spanish people must answer to this crime.
I am from Greece and we also are demonstrating. If the government dares to use such violence it will be an act of war.


form May 27, 2011 at 22:22

Thanks a lot. Finally something at least in English, the Spanish are not the most multilingual people :D .
The governments really are afraid of the people now. Did you hear about what happened last year in Stuttgart, Germany? http://www.ficko-magazin.de/2010/10/freiheit/freiheit-lesen/stuttgart-21-eskalation-der-polizei-und-regierung/ Uh, well, in German, so this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1UYd5LDQXA
This has changed quite something, even non-political people have begun to think about the state of our “democracy” and after 58 years the conservative party couldnt stay in power.
Seems to me the the conditions in Spain are way worse and what happened today really sent images into the world so it might spread. I am hopeful.
Thanks for the work by the way. I know what it´s like to spend a lot of time trying to change the world to a better place :) .


yolanda May 28, 2011 at 13:59

perhaps it’s time to start to learn Spanish, isn’t it?
a spanish multilingual indignada


form May 29, 2011 at 15:54

I speak some Spanish, but not enough. But I just saw how stupid and maybe arrogant my comment sounded. Sorry for that, I just wanto to encourage you (?) in Spain to at least have some info in English, too so that international supporters can follow a little more easily.


Isabel May 29, 2011 at 19:43

You’re right, I think. We should learn more English if we want to have supporters around the world.


Mari May 28, 2011 at 02:53

Thanks to everyone who is watching and writing about the attack. It wasn’t a “clash”, as you said, the protesters were peaceful, they had flowers and offered them to the police; they were sitting showing their bare hands. The police attacked old women, disabled people, students, workers… shooting baton rounds at point range, trying to run over protesters with their vans… Everything has been documented and is on youtube and flickr.
I am from Barcelona, and what happened here today is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. We, as a city, are devastated. I went to the 7 p.m. demonstration to show support to those who were still camped after the brutal attack. They are sad, but resilient and hopeful.
#bcnsinmiedo (Barcelona has no fear)
Please let us know that the world is watching!


joana May 28, 2011 at 04:03

I am spanish, and today, is one of the worst days in our history. We need all your support because the things are so difficult. our democracy is not a real democracy, all of us are angry and furious, because they don’t represent us. thanks.


jordi May 29, 2011 at 15:43

I’m spanish too, and I want to say only one thing, democracy, is not democracy.
In Spain, England or Island.
Democracy sh*t, and a lot of people on Catalunya Square are not fighting for a more stronger democracy, we’re figthing for smash democracy and begins new kinds of organization without leaders or governments.


six May 28, 2011 at 04:14

Thanks,really thanks.. International supports are bringing hope to our squares. The spanish press works for the corrupted political staff, and we have only Internet to keep this alive..

Fuerza!! Sevilla resiste.

Go Greece!!!!!!!!


Arianne Sved May 28, 2011 at 04:48

Very well said, Jerome. La lucha continúa!


Lus May 28, 2011 at 07:21

Go Spain ! Hope Europe and USA will follow your example, time for the world to take a stand against tyranny !


Svenceremos May 28, 2011 at 08:49

Thanks a lot for the good description plus analysis of what happend yesterday. I have never been in Barcelona and live far away in Germany, but my heart and thoughts are with the all people who had to suffer from police brutality and, nevertheless, kept their pacifistic course. Solidarity from all over the world is yours. ¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!


chilli May 28, 2011 at 13:45

The German tv-news are censored.They tell lies:” only 120 joung persons in spain demonstrate on the street.”


Mannia May 28, 2011 at 14:04

What happened is unforgivable! Do not let this happen to you again! Democracy is abolish all over Europe, people must fight against that! I am form Greece too, demonstration are still calm here, we hope they stay that way… :/
Estamos despiertos thanks to you people! :)


truca May 28, 2011 at 14:10

it´s very gratefull read your article! its very important show the people what is happening right now, so they can see that a change its really possible, now is the moment we were waiting for!! join us all over the world!

from spain, toma la calle!


fifouisfloyd May 28, 2011 at 14:14



J. Muntean May 28, 2011 at 14:36

Makes me furious and very sad. We all have to have a voice and our own voted in governments will NOT listen to us. Who pays their salary? All over the world, so called democracy has become a shield for corruption and back room deals.

Life and liberty? What a farce!

Jill Muntean…Canada


Ralitza May 28, 2011 at 14:45

Just willing to express my full support to the peaceful protesters!


Will (Foss) Richardson May 28, 2011 at 14:47

Stirring stuff.

Solidad los pueblos mundial!

Solidarity with the people of the world.

There are two kinds of people, the people and the plutocratic elite.

All other national, ethnic, belief system differences are trivial compared to this.

Genuine working solutions are out there; Modern Monetary Theory, the Job (Education Training) Guarantee like in Norway, Understanding Modern Sovereign Money.


Stelios May 28, 2011 at 15:14

Greece is with you and together we’re now AWAKE!


Jose May 28, 2011 at 18:19

Great article. Thank you very much!


Rui May 28, 2011 at 18:44

Portugal was watching! no general media gave much time to it though, but is very well spreaded in te web! today saturday, was a demonstration planind at 3pm, but a torrential storm made it a small crowd… Estamos con vosotros!


Sheople84 May 28, 2011 at 20:17

In the Netherlands was a short item of this on the news yesterday. They mentioned also à clash instead of brutal violance. Hopefully the protests Will continue to spread and Will Arive in THE netherlands. Its time.


kIM mEDINA nICHOLSON May 28, 2011 at 20:47

I am happy to read, hear and see how many of us still believe, that together we can make humanity a better kind to share the world.


Anthony Binder May 28, 2011 at 23:16

I was at Placa Catalunya and running with the Spanish people (I am from Australia) I am proud of your bravery in standing up for justice in a corrupt system, shown clearly by the excessive use of force by the police. It was the most horrible example I have seen of a government acting against it’s own people, it brings tears to my eyes…. What you are doing is right and important… I will never forget and will do what I can to make sure that the truth will be upheld……thank you, thank you, thank you…


jone zee May 29, 2011 at 04:13

Stay strong Spain, the world is watching and taking courage from your example.
I pray that these days are the beginning of the end of oppression. Its time for change and the Spanish pioneers should feel proud to be one of the first people to stand up for their rights. Peace and love will prevail through your strength and determination . Keep this ball rolling and let the rest of the world join you.


Vanesa May 29, 2011 at 20:15

Everybody who wants to know:

Yesterday in the night Police tried to “clean” Plaza Cataluña, Barcelona, again.

The pacific attitude of the encamped ones prevented it.

It’s catalonian TV, goverment-censored television that slowly begins to talk about what’s happening in Barcelona:


Thanx for support!


Vanesa May 29, 2011 at 20:22

Plaza Cataluña, Barcelona May 29/2011

Non violent action prevent hooligans from Barça enter in the plaça, and prevent riots police try to re-take it.



diego May 30, 2011 at 12:14

I’m from the USA but am currently residing in Madrid Spain, and have been attending the rally’s here in Puerta del Sol to show support. After viewing what happen in Barcelona I am simply disgusted… With that said this WILL increase awareness globally and give the people of Spain what they need. Stay positive and violent free.


Jose Bogado May 30, 2011 at 19:33

Is Not a Spanish, Is not a german movement. It’s a worldwide one. People aginst power. We live, we think, we decide, people fron all word, rise up.


Mike June 24, 2011 at 18:25

I cannot believe some of the footage I have seen. Stay strong people of Spain. The world is starting to watch.


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