Spain reels at violent tactics by riot police

Sunday, September 30, 2012
By Paul Martin

Officers lash out at passengers and austerity protesters as they storm into Madrid rail station

Giles Tremlett
GuardianUK
Saturday 29 September 2012

The middle-aged man sitting on a railway station bench protects a younger man by wrapping his arms around him as he shouts desperately at the helmeted, baton-wielding police officers running up and down the platforms at Madrid’s Atocha station.

“Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!” he bellows repeatedly in a video that shows how police charged into the station during violent demonstrations that shook Madrid last week.

On the other side of the ticket barrier a younger man is whacked with truncheons by two policemen. “I don’t know whether he is a passenger or a protester,” one of them admits. A third man who was waiting for a train is bundled down the platform by police officers as he asks: “And what have I done?” A youth points to blood running down his face. “What the hell is this?” he asks.

On Friday, police told a judge they had needed to chase a group of violent protesters across the railway tracks and had later arrested some in a nearby bar. They, too, had suffered injuries. “People who had been hurling stones at police tried to hide in the station, passing themselves off as normal passengers,” a spokesman said. “We had to go in.”

As Spaniards respond with dismay to the violence shown by demonstrators, who launched attacks on police, and the response of some riot police, during scuffles in the area around Madrid’s parliament building last week, the long-running drama of the country’s deflating economy has lurched into a newly confrontational stage, amid fears that there will be more violence to come.

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