THE Spanish Government is spending nearly €1 billion on riot gear for its police forces as various protestors prepare for strikes.
From shields to stab vests and the purchase of a new truck-mounted water cannon, an anti-riot measure used during Franco’s dictatorship and the transition to democracy, they have gone all out. “These water cannon can cause severe injuries and commotions when used at a short distance,” stated Angel Gonzalo from Amnesty International.
The activist group ‘Coordinadora 25-s’ has predicted a season of protests, which they’re calling “the autumn of confronting power and institutions” which has its roots in the ‘Indignados’ movement.
Protests against the new draft bill against abortion and a demonstration to demand a referendum on the monarchy are also in talks.
First-person accounts of riots in Madrid and Barcelona claim that police treated peaceful protestors in the same way as those who showed violence towards them.
The police officers’ union said that the purchases were likely to be just part of an effort by the government to update obsolete equipment. “We have a problem with equipment,” said Javier Estévez of the police union, pointing to a protest last March which left 67 police officers injured. “We don’t have the best or even up-to-date equipment,” he said, despite the obligation that the government has to protect the police.
While his group opposed the purchase of the water cannon, he waved aside concerns over the other purchases, noting: “When this gear is used properly, there’s nothing wrong with it, because it’s in line with Spanish legislation.”