• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Speaking Through Gags

It is time for King Felipe of Spain to step up to the plate and bat down a law which is constitutes a direct assault on civil society and freedom.

Col. Tejero Couping the Congress

As most people (and perhaps some Americans) are aware, Spain has been gripped by fairly ongoing protests since the financial collapse of 2008.  To date, the government has been unable to restore the economy and so the protests continue.

Given its ineptitude and the total failure of its economic policies, Spain’s right-wing ruling party, the Partido Popular, has  passed a law outlawing unauthorized protests.  Nicknamed La Ley Mordaza (the Gag Law) it enacts criminal penalties for protesting without a permit. 

But it does far more than that.  The law which was given the historically ominous name of Law for the Protection of Citizen Security imposes draconian limitations and penalties on the right of public assembly and protest.  It makes it unlawful to:

1. Photograph or record police – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
2. Peaceful disobedience to authority – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
3. Occupy banks as means of protest – 600 to 30.000€ fine. 
4. Not formalizing a protest – 600 to 30.000€ fine. 
5. Carry out assemblies or meetings in public spaces – 100 to 600€ fine. 
6. Impede or stop an eviction – 600 to 30.000€ fine. 
7. Being present at an occupied space (not only social centers but also houses occupied by evicted families) – 100 to 600€ fine.
8. Meeting or gathering in front of Congress – 600 to 30.000€ fine.

It provides for: 
9. Police black lists for protesters, activists and alternative press have been legalized. 
10. The payment of judicial costs, whose amount depends on the fine, in order to appeal.
11. Random identity checks and racial profiling of immigrants and minorities.
12. Police can now carry out raids at their discretion, without the need for “order” to have been disrupted. 
13. External bodily searches are also now allowed at police discretion. 
14. Government prohibition of any protest at will, if it feels “order” will be disrupted. 
15. Any ill-defined “critical infrastructure” is now considered a forbidden zone for public gatherings if it might affect their functioning. 
16. There are also fines for people who climb buildings and monuments without permission.

 These particular provisions of the law make clear what it is about:  it is about protecting the oligarchy.  It is a law entirely worthy of Francisco Franco.

Not surprisingly every other party across the entire political spectrum voted against the law.  But the PP, which controls both chambers of the legislature prevailed.

On 23 February 1981, a right wing cabal attempted a coup aimed at squelching Spain’s renewed democracy.  Felipe’s father, King Juan Carlos, stepped forward and put an end to the coup .

For that he was always remembered gratefully by the people of Spain notwithstanding his later failings.

Colonel Tejero’s action was an assault on democracy from outside the law, whereas the current Gag Law was, without doubt, enacted in accordance with due and democratic process.

But one would have to be an imbecile not to realise that assaults on freedom can come from within the law as well.  Such was the case with the Law for the Protection of the People & State which was enabled by a Reichstag controlled by a single party.

La Ley Mordaza puts the Spanish Monarchy in a very uncomfortable position.  As constitutional monarch, King Felipe is duty bound not to interfere with the democratic process.  Nonetheless, the Spanish Constitution makes it incumbent on the monarch to sanction the laws and to serve as the commander in chief of the armed force and as the symbol of national unity.   It was under this incumbency that Juan Carlos denounced the 1981 coup.

Historical crises are seldom clear and are always discomforting.  That said, Felipe should dare to be the King.  If he does he will earn the gratitude of the nation.  If he does not, neither the monarchy nor the unity of Spain will survive.