I was planning to post what would have been an almost routine update on the protest camp in Madrid's Puerta del Sol, but events have intervened. In Barcelona the authorities have launched an operation this morning to clear the camp in the city's Plaça de Catalunya. The pretext for the operation has been cleanliness and hygiene, but what we have seen over the last couple of hours live on Spanish TV have been been scenes of extraordinary and unprovoked police violence against peaceful demonstrators. This is a taste of what has happened this morning.
Antena 3 has interrupted it's normally bland and awful morning programming to cover more than any other channel the police charges. We've seen people being repeatedly struck with batons, being kicked by police whilst lying on the ground and many other incidents of violence from the police. The only hygiene that is missing here is democratic, in any truly free society many of the police in action this morning would be facing prison for their actions. Their bosses too. Following an interview with the police chief of Barcelona where he attempted to deny shocking scenes that viewers were seeing with their own eyes, the police tried to move journalists away from the scene. There have even been reports of volleys of shots being fired in the air. All this just so that lorries could carry away the contents of the camp, including the personal belongings of those who were there.
We now wait to see the response to this operation, it should backfire against the authorities. A camp in Lleida was also cleared this morning, although it seems to have happened without the appalling violence of Barcelona. Today at 19:00 protests have already been called in all the squares to protest this morning's events and the Plaça de Catalunya is now surrounded by demonstrators. There was a reasonable chance that the camps in many Spanish cities would have voluntarily brought their protest to a peaceful conclusion in the next few days, with the campaign adopting new tactics. The brutal crackdown this morning could now change that, just as the police eviction last week in Madrid brought more people out onto the streets.
In Madrid over the last couple of days I've noticed an increasing police presence in the Puerta del Sol. Until a few days ago there was just a row of police vans in front of Casa Espe, the headquarters of the regional government. The truth was that these police had nothing to do, no role to play. The camp in Madrid has been extremely peaceful and self-policing. Two days ago I noticed that there were now police stationed on every corner of the streets leading into the Puerta del Sol. Last night there were police vans in these positions too. It's as if they are slowly taking a tighter grip on the square. The shameful brutality of Barcelona's police this morning has now changed the outcome. The police don't create problems, they solve them was what interior minister Rubalcaba told us the other day. Doesn't look that way to me.