Spain's 'Gag Law' Comes Into Effect July 1, Includes Huge Fines For Protesters

Anne Sewell

Despite many recent protests in the streets of Spain, today sees the new "gag law" come into effect. Many say the so-called "Citizen Safety Law" has nothing to do with the safety of citizens and is more like a return to the days of the dictator, Francisco Franco.

In a country where thousands have people have first lost their jobs due to budget cuts, followed by losing their homes because they can't pay their mortgages, it has been a harsh experience for the average Spaniard.

— Democracia real YA! (@democraciareal) June 30, 2015

Since May, 2011, protests have been an ongoing process in Spain, with the people demonstrating against the harsh austerity measures and budget cuts imposed by the Spanish Government as a response to the IMF loans to rescue the banks.

Now, the government is cracking down in an effort to stop the people protesting for their own basic human rights.

Dubbed "ley mordaza" or "gag law" by the citizens, the new so-called "Citizen Safety Law" is set to stop people getting out on the streets as part of their basic human right to free speech.

Protests for the most part over the last few years have been entirely peaceful -- wherever violence has occurred, it has been considered by the demonstrators to mainly be the work of "agentes provocateurs," attempting to turn things in a different direction and thus encouraging riot police to be involved.

Despite said protests against the new measures, as well as widespread rejection by the opposition parties, the government still insists that the new "gag law" is there for the protection of the people.

— EL PAÍS (@el_pais) July 1, 2015

[Tweet translation: Catalog of sanctions 'gag law'... One by one, the behaviors and fine amounts]

The following are just a few examples of what Spaniards can no longer do under the new "gag law," or face huge fines.

Demonstrating anywhere near Congress and the Senate building will be considered a "serious perturbation of citizen security." Congress has long been a popular site for peoples' protests against austerity and budget cuts imposed by the state.

El Pais in English quotes a Greenpeace spokesperson as say, "But what constitutes perturbing citizen security?" as the group denounces the new law.

Taking photographs or videos of police officers will become a thing of the past. While citizen journalists have often captured police abuse during protests and shared it on the social media or used it as evidence against police officers, this will no longer be allowed.

Under the new "gag law" or so-called Citizen Safety Law, there will be fines for "the unauthorized use of images or personal or professional information" about police officers "that could endanger their personal safety or that of their families, of protected facilities or endanger the success of a police operation."

In this case, Amnesty International has raised its voice, noting that the videos captured by both journalists and private citizens have often helped in the past in reporting excessive force used by police officers.

Stopping a home eviction will be a serious crime. PAH is an organization that has helped many families in trouble and in danger of losing their homes.

In fact, the new mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau (pictured left), was one of the founding members of the organization and got involved in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

This crisis saw the collapse of the Spanish property market and the rise of evictions caused by abusive mortgage clauses imposed by the banks. For instance, the bank can take your home, but you are still liable for the total amount owing on your mortgage.

Despite the good work done by PAH, and the fact that one of their founders now has a privileged position in the running of one of Spain's most prominent cities, Barcelona, the ruling PP government has even suggested there are ties between the PAH and the Basque terrorist group, ETA, which couldn't be further from the truth.

With the new "gag law," it will be much more difficult for PAH to "obstruct any authority, public employee, or official corporation in the exercise of administrative or judicial agreements or resolutions."

Under the new legislation, people can now also be fined for "climbing buildings or monuments without authorization when there is a clear risk of damage to persons or goods."

In recent years, even Greenpeace has been seen to do just this while protesting on behalf of the "Arctic 30" back in 2009, when they climbed the iconic Sagrada Familia temple in Barcelona.

While Greenpeace notes, "In this case, the offense is committed without the need for disturbing the peace or harming citizen security," under the new law, it is enough for police officers themselves to consider that a risk to the public exists.

The new "gag law" will also mean the end of peaceful resistance. Anyone who refuses to break up a peaceful demonstration or gathering in a public place will be hit with a fine.

— The Local Spain (@TheLocalSpain) July 1, 2015

Since demonstrations began back in May, 2011, social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, has been used widely to organize last minute and spontaneous protests against the various actions taken by the government. Facebook, particularly, was a very powerful tool in building the 15M Indignado movement. However, under the new law, anyone trying to organize a protest using social media faces being hit with a fine.

As for the fines themselves, under this new "gag law," the fines for minor offenses will range from 100 to 600 euros ($111 to $665). More serious offences will face penalties from 601 euros ($666) to anything up to 30,000 euros ($33,250), and even more serious offences will land a person a fine of anything between 30,001 euros ($33,250.86) to 600,000 euros ($665,000).

With austerity measures, budget cuts, and high unemployment, whatever the fine may be, that amount will be out of the reach of the average Spaniard.

Note: While most of the information above is quoted from the Spanish media, the writer has been an active member of the 15M Indignados movement since June, 2011, and is sometimes quoting from experience, rather than information currently in the media.

In other Spanish news, the Inquisitr reports on the gruesome story of a tourist who accidentally saved the life of a brutal homicide suspect in a balcony fall at a hotel in Mallorca.

[Images: Protest in Madrid against the new "gag law" CC BY SA 4.0 Carlos Delgado / Ada Colau of the PAH CC BY SA 3.0 Jove / Greenpeace image courtesy Greenpeace]