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article imageSpain: Heavier fines for 'illegal protests' than serious crimes

By Anne Sewell     Nov 19, 2013 in World
Madrid - The government of Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy is about to impose heavier fines for protests in front of Congress and other government buildings, than for serious crimes such as prostitution in the presence of children or the cultivation of narcotic drugs.
As part of the new "Public Safety Act", which is likely to be approved in Parliament on Tuesday, fines of up to 600,000 euros will be considered for protesting outside government buildings, or for the common Spanish practice called "escraches", where people protest outside the workplaces or homes of political figures.
As a comparison, other offences which are deemed "serious", including insulting or threatening a police officer, the possession of illegal drugs (for sale or self-use), prostitution close to children's play areas and vandalism of public property, will attract a far lesser fine of between 1,000 euros and 30,000 euros.
Spain's Interior Ministry told the Huffington Post (in Spanish):
“We’re not looking to punish more, just to reduce the discretionary margin of illicit conducts and not stumble upon a judicial limbo for ‘new’ acts like the escraches.”
Escraches have become more popular recently in Spain due to the many evictions of families from their homes where the anti-evictions group, the PAH, lobby outside of politicians' offices and homes.
Spain has seen many street protests since the Spanish 15m movement started back in 2011. While most times permission is applied for prior to the demonstration from the local municipality, occasionally more spontaneous actions have happened in the streets in reaction to news emanating from the Spanish government. It is these actions which are most likely to get hit by the new so-called security law.
Mario Rodriguez from Greenpeace Spain wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post (Spanish language) where he mentioned that the well-used hashtag #Sinmiedo (without fear) was invented to pass laws like the Law of Protection of Public Safety.
Rodriguez said that it is "the new weapon of the government to intimidate and destroy the disobedient, the bad guys with hipsters ..."
He continues that under this new law, holding any peaceful demonstration could cost up to 600,000 euros, saying "This type of law in the twenty-first century is as out of place as those Romans in the movies wearing wristwatches."
According to Rodriguez, it has taken 40 years of protesting peacefully and passive resistance for Greenpeace to make its hallmark. He says that if this law is approved, the goal is clear, to silence Greenpeace and other activists.
Or as one Twitter member said (translated from Spanish):
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Twitter screen grab
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