[JURIST] Protests erupted in more than 30 cities in Spain on Saturday due to a new public security law that criminalizes certain types of social protests and demonstrations. Protests took place in both large and small cities, including Barcelona, Madrid, Almeria and Valencia. Some protesters wore tape on their mouths and carried signs calling the law a “gagging law. The law [HRW report; text, PDF in Spanish], which was approved last Thursday by the Spanish parliament [official website], is highly controversial and has been criticized as a specific way for the government to silence protesters of its handling of the country’s current financial crisis [BBC backgrounder]. The law allows fines for some protests for up to 30,000 euros for certain minor offenses such as insulting police officers and burning the national flag, and fines for up to 600,000 euros for big offenses such as breaching the peace outside important public institutions including parliament.
Spain has been involved in other controversial political issues over the past year as well. In November around 2 million people in Spain’s Catalonia region voted in a mock independence poll [JURIST report] for Catalonia’s independence from Spain. Results released showed that 1.6 million voters favored breaking away from Spain to create their own nation. Just a week earlier the Spanish Constitutional Court suspended [JURIST report] the controversial vote until parties had presented their cases to go forward or completely halt the vote. In June Spanish lawmakers approved [JURIST report] controversial new legal protections for former king Juan Carlos after he lost his total immunity when he abdicated the throne last week. Also in June the lower house of the Cortes Generales, Spain’s national legislative body, overwhelmingly approved a law [JURIST report] recognizing the abdication of King Juan Carlos and allowing for his son Prince Felipe to take his place