viernes, 23 de diciembre de 2011

A New Indignado!

On Thursday December 22, 2011 in the Tirso de Molina neighborhood of Madrid, Spain, I was stopped, accused, searched, insulted and to my mind threatened by four undercover members of the Madrid police force, simply due to their perceived notions of my political beliefs.  I have filed a denuncia (official complaint) against this deed, but as the officers basically refused to identify themselves, I was unable to file against them individually.  

Let me begin by saying that until this early morning just after midnight, never did I consider myself an Indignado.  I am hardly young.  I work.  I have many things for which to be thankful, things that the Spanish youth graduating from universities today see as an impossibility to attain.  However, I have been sympathetic to the movement because of a strong feeling of injustice coming from a system that offers young Spaniards few opportunities, and yet seems deaf and sometimes outright combative when these disenchanted young people have the courage to speak out.  I admired the Indignados.  I filmed the Indignados.  However, I have done little actual protesting.  That has all changed in the past 24 hours.  I am officially indignant, and feeling a bit ashamed that it has taken me this long.  Now my story....

Last night I met with my brother around 19:30 in the Puerta del Sol to take some pictures and videos of a couple of protests -- one in support of the victims of Francisco Franco's Fascist regime, and another in support of the Madrid #15M Movement.  Here are a couple of my pics from the protests....

After spending a half hour taking photos, we decided to head towards the Tirso de Molina area nearby to get a bite to eat.  We walked through the plaza itself and about a block away our problems began.  My brother was smoking his last cigarette when we were accosted from behind by a man dressed in black who was trying to speak to us.  My brother does not speak Spanish and is visiting Madrid as a tourist, but I was able to ascertain that the man was telling us that he was the Police.  I spoke to him in Spanish and explained that my brother did not understand him, and asked what he wanted.  He said that we had been smoking a porro (a marijuana or hashish cigarette) and he wanted to speak to us.  I immediately demanded to see his badge which he showed me, and I quickly realized that 3 other men dressed in black had surrounded us and were showing us their badges too.

Was I nervous?  Not in the least.  My brother had been smoking tobacco, and I was carrying only a phone, abono (subway pass), keys, camera, flashlight and a few things I had bought that day.  Unfortunately for me, those few things included 2 "V for Vendetta" masks, and 2 canisters of pepper spray that I had bought just minutes before in a self-defense shop in Sol.  Both of these objects are perfectly legal in Madrid, but don't think that stopped one of these officers from taking exception.  Here is a photo of the LEGAL items (masks, flashlight, spray) that were in my possession at the time.....

First, I asked if I could call my lawyer and the officers said no, I had only one option and that was submit to a search, which I did.  I also asked permission to film the search.  Since they were accusing us using illegal drugs, I wanted to be able to prove beyond any doubt that we were carrying nothing illegal.  They said I could not film the search.   Upon finding my "V for Vendetta" masks, one police officer went ballistic.  After letting out a sarcastic laugh of indignation, he stated that, "estas mascaras son de un movimiento!" (these masks are from a movement!).  He asked me why I had the masks in my possession, and I replied that I had purchased them for the Cabalgata Indignada being held on December 28 at 19:00 in the Puerta de Alcala, however, the officer seemed skeptical.  Here are some photos of where the search took place.....

The same officer asked me what I did for a living here in Madrid and I truthfully answered that I did many things including teaching English.  He replied, "pues, tengo una hija y nunca la dejaria hacer clases con un gillipollas como tu" (well, I have a daughter and I would never let her do classes with a dickhead like you).

I was shocked, stunned.  Four men with guns have my brother and me against the wall, and one of them is now yelling at me and calling me a dickhead because I am carrying a shopping bag holding a mask from a "movement".  I calmly replied, "pues, que pena porque aprenderia mucho, todos mis alumnos estan encantados con mis clases." (well, what a shame because she would learn a lot, all my students love my classes).  The officer became enraged, perhaps because he did not like my response.  He began yelling in Spanish and his fellow officers got between him and me while he shouted, "por que siempre hay un payaso que tiene que tocarme los cojones?" (why is there always some clown that has to bust my balls?)

Upon considering this complete lack of professionalism from a supposed officer of the law, I began to get a bit scared.  The thought entered my mind that no real policeman would insult a person like that simply for carrying a mask.  Even if he was against the Indignado movement, it is not his place (and frankly, it is downright Orwellian) to criticize my political beliefs.

The officers continued to berate and insult me, to which I always replied calmly, yet trying my best to show that I would not be intimidated.  This did little to calm the situation, and at one point the officer told me to just suppose that he asked me to submit to a drug test, and if I passed it, he would let me go; however if I failed it, he could detain me.  I said that would be fine with me, provided I could call my lawyer first, and provided that he advised me that taking a drug test was a good idea.  Now the officer who had hurled the vast majority of the insults got directly into my face and said, "sabes lo que te digo, no me gusta tu cara!" (you know what? I don't like your face!)  I had absolutely no response for that one, but it made me think even more that this was no police search, but most likely a robbery in progress.  Here is the doorway where they made my brother and me place our belongings while we were searched and insulted.....

After a bit of debate amongst themselves, the officers told us to pick up our things and go.  I asked if I could take a photo of them, but they said no.  I asked if I could photograph their badges and ID cards, but they said no.  I asked them to please identify themselves, and they all began saying their names and ID numbers at the same time as they walked away, making it impossible for me to know who they were, or even if they were real police officers.  My brother the tourist pleaded with me to let it go, and for his sake, I did just that, but a foul taste in my mouth remained.  I walked two blocks before I decided to go back and take photos of the place where it had all happened.  After that, I went directly to the Comisaria de Policia on the Calle Huertas to file a denuncia (official complaint).

I was nervous.  I was shaking.  I was about to press charges against 4 undercover cops in the city where I have lived for more than a decade.  But really, need I be afraid?  In my 42 years on this planet, I have never received as much as a speeding ticket, let alone been detained, arrested or in any kind of trouble with the authorities whatsoever.  I asked to speak with the Jefe (Chief of Police), since I thought filing charges against police officers could prove to be problematic.  After about an hour, I was allowed to see the Jefe de Policia in the Comisaria de Retiro on the Calle Huertas.  I told him my story, leaving out no detail and he was sympathetic, cordial, extremely amiable, but completely unhelpful.  No, I could not place a denuncia because I did not have the names of the people I wanted to denounce.  I mentioned that all he had to do was take a look on his computer at who had called in my DNI an hour before, and he would have his man.  Unfortunately, he said that as the Huertas Street Comisaria is for the Retiro District, he could not access information about anything that had happened Downtown.  He did offer to give me his name and phone number, after I told him that I was afraid that this officer might be coming after me.  This did wonders to calm me down, as I was getting nervous about the possibility of an undercover policeman who "hated my face" and thought me a "dickhead" having access to all my data, while I hadn't even a clue as to his identity.  Imagine my disappointment, when my calm turned to horror, upon leaving the police station, and discovering The Chief had handed me a piece of paper with no name that said only "Chief of Police in Retiro" and a landline number to the precinct.  All this after I had told him that someone claiming to be the police had searched me, insulted me in a threatening way, and then had made little effort to identify themselves, and that I was in fear for my safety.  Here is a photo of the piece of paper I was given from the extremely polite Retiro Police Chief......

On my walk home, I was terrified once again.  I thought a piece of paper from a Chief would be enough to deter any loose cannon officer with my name and address, but since I had been basically blown off, the thought came to my mind that perhaps this Chief would contact these undercover officers to give them the heads up as to what I was saying and doing.  This morning I phoned my lawyer about going to the Downtown Comisaria to place my denuncia, but he recommended that I not go back to the police.  So, I went directly to a Spanish Judge at the Juzgado de Guardia (Courts on Duty) to file my complaint.  Here are a couple of photos of the denuncia.....

Now some questions I must ask...

Is this behavior normal for the Spanish police?

Were we stopped because we were smoking a cigarette, or because we are immigrants speaking in a language other than Spanish? (Recently, there have been massive police round-ups of illegal immigrants in the Tirso de Molina area).  Here are 2 links, one in English and one in Spanish ...

Article in Spanish

Article in English

Did the police do anything illegal?  There was no violence or even an actual threat of violence.  But to my mind, when four armed men surround two civilians and begin insulting them with the most crude and ugly language possible, is it not reasonable to believe that the pair might be in danger?

If the Spanish police can legally search you with no probable cause and you are not even permitted to phone your lawyer, would it be too much to require the police to hand you a business card with the officer's name and badge number? It can be quite intimidating to request this information, especially when the carrier of the data also carries a pistol and a grudge.

Why were the Police in the Comisaria de Retiro so unwilling to help me? I went in with an allegation of having been searched, denied council, insulted, berated and implicitly threatened by 4 undercover Spanish police officers who were unwilling to identify themselves, and while agreeing with me that it was not only unprofessional but also outrageous behavior, the Police Chief was completely unwilling to take my declaration, call the Chief at the other precinct, or even give me his real name! If the Retiro Chief of Police truly agrees that this kind of behavior is intolerable, why wasn't a real offer to assist me extended, and why was I shuffled out the door with a smile, a cordial farewell and piece of advice to sleep on it before I did anything precipitous?

Why are the police stopping only immigrants and those speaking in languages other than Spanish? The overriding theme in all the articles I have seen on the issue is this, Spanish people are not being stopped.  If you are black, Asian, speaking in English or Arabic, or simply not Spanish enough, you are much more likely to be detained, questioned, searched, insulted and persecuted by the Madrid Police, than if you do the "right" thing (look and speak Spanish).

And finally, why in the world would the Police think that the Indignados are the enemy?  Despite the fact that these guys are out in the street night after night protesting for YOU (how many cop 1%-ers can there be?), the Madrid Police are against them? How long will it take until the police wake up and realize that they too are being swindled by the real criminals in Spain? And why do you need a "disgusting"  "dickhead" whose "face you don't like and would never let near your daughter" to point out the obvious?

58 comentarios:

  1. Hugs from a sympathetic radical feminist.

  2. Good post, Rich. ACAB, Fuck the police, and so on. Fascistas.

    (Tell your brother to quit smoking.)

  3. The police doesn't work, and not all... but most are facists. This is the reason why. But in all of sites of Spain is like this. They create a system out of control when some in the government, and when there are others, although not much difference between them, take the law into their own hands. So, fuck police.

  4. It's a shame, but policemen usually act like that in the Basque Country, but since the 15M movement, spanish people are getting aware of which is the real task of the police. And in this country police suppress citizens (I don' know if that is the correct word iun english, I mean "reprimir" verb, I'm not english native, sorry).

  5. Sincerelly, You two aré two dickheads...

  6. If You want yo take Photos from problems in spain You aré taking the risk to get in troubles.... You directly Touch the polices balls, who is as stupid to try to film the police while they are searching you... You are moré tan dickheads, go to your country to phtografy the environment, and Touch there all the balls that You two want... Are You trying to say that hére we are racists?? Sincerelly, i think You were too well treated...

  7. I feel so ashamed of being spanish right now... and kind of proud of being part or the indignados too. Just keep on fighting for our rights!

  8. I'm sorry it happends to you. Why don't you send this post to the papers?

  9. Este comentario ha sido eliminado por el autor.

  10. Good post.

    Before I tell you some things, I wanted to tell jarsenuk that being radical is not something to be proud of, doesn't matter if it's "radical feminist" or "radical nazi-skin-whatever". Radicalism is the cancer of this world.

    Spain is full of people who thinks that their ways are THE WAYS, and if you don't follow you get punished. That's the simpliest way to define Spain. What do you expect from the Police, the right arm of the Government which is full of scammers, unprepared people and greedies? To be proffessionals? Well, there are professional ones, but those are the ones on traffic tasks. The ones they sent for stuff like movements etc. are the ones that represent the WORST level of spanish people.

    I admire you because you could remain calmed. I cannot resist unrespectful treatment, I do not care if it comes from a police officer or my grandma.

    I'm sorry you had to live that situation. I hope that our society changes someday, for good.

    Kindest regards,


  11. @juan, callate idiota, paleto de mierda. eres peor que esos policias

  12. Thanks for the info. It is good to make public such kind of events. And also, I send you some support, I know how it feels when you are not in your country and the known as 'authorities' are kind of the enemy.

  13. Yes, that's the behaviour of the Spanish policemen. I live in MAdrid, my surname is basque and I am used to this. I just keep my mouth shut, whenever a policeman asks me for my ID. They get scared as soon as they see I've got a basque surname, you can see it in their faces. They are cowards and have to hide it by boasting or insulting.

  14. Juan, el comentario racista es el tuyo al decir a nadie que se vaya a su país, ¿quien te has creído que eres? Esto es una publicación informativa, no para que vengas a insultar a nadie. Esto se llama abuso de poder, los comentarios de los policías no son nada profesionales, recuerda que son trabajadores públicos, que ''supuestamente'' trabajan para nosotros. creo que es una pérdida de tiempo y del dinero público que se tiren media hora o lo que haya durado en dos personas que lo único que han hecho es grabar y comprar dos mascaras, del movimiento y opinión política que a ellos les haya salido de las pelotas. Y creo que lo más normal del mundo es que alguien se intente proteger de estos abusos de la mejor manera que puedan ya sea grabando o lo que fuera, por que de hecho es legal grabar estas cosas pero no interesa, ya que el trato recibido no es el correcto y es denunciable, igual que el hecho de que no hayan dado su identificación. Recuerda que todo lo que les registraron fue devuelto ya que no era nada ilegal.
    Deja de insultar y vete a jugar al tetris anda bonito, estoy segura de que eres un policía que se siente muy orgulloso de su titulo de la E.S.O. y tu puntuación del psicotécnico.
    Saludos. Natacha

  15. Este comentario ha sido eliminado por el autor.

  16. Juan creo que exageras un poco, vale, yo no tengo apellido en euskera pero sí el nombre, y mi acento canta bastante, y los policías no me han mirado como a una "terrorista", descontado ir con matrícula SS a Valladolid, y a otros lares, pero bueno, poner cara de mosquita muerta funciona.
    La primera en tener apellido vasco es la presi de la comunidad madrileña, Sra. Aguirre, así que... perdona que que dude de las generalizaciones

  17. This is more common than what you think. The first time I was harassed by Police I had 12. I was attending a pacifist demo, after an argument with an anti-riot officer (they wouldn't allow me to take home my sign), four anti-riot officers took me to the Police van and harassed, insulted and humiliated me for a while (in front of a horrified crowd). I left the place shocked, full of fear and rage.

    During the subsequent years, I was harassed in many drug searches. When they found no drugs, instead of leting me go and/or apoligizing, they were really upset about having no legal basis for arrest. So they tried to humiliate me in as many ways as possible before allowing me to go. This included making me break and throw to trash all my cigars, making me put a part the pieces of a photography camera in order to see if hided drugs , and forced me to break apart some other personal belongings.

    I was also involved in other political campaigning. When Police saw me with political posters, they would also try to humiliate me.

    What boosts my rage even more is that, when I needed police, they didn't do anything for me. I was brutally beaten at the age of 13 after a demo. I went to Police and I identified the people who beaten me. Instead of arresting me, Police repeteadly told me thigs like "Are you really sure?" "This is not a game, we cannot arrest an innocent just because you're not sure", etc. Since I was in front of the unarrestest aggressors and Police didn't make a sign to prevent intimidation or protect me, I was really scared (I just left the hospital and had the inside of my mouth full of stitches)... so in the end, the I told the Police: "ok, I'm not really really sure, this was very fast" (although I was 100% sure). What happened? Everyone walked away and left me alone.

    Nowadays, I've got friends in the Police, I've met some good policemen, but still, I think Police forces in Spain are largely corrupt.

  18. Im deeply sorry you both had to live such an experience, but police work and profesionality are anything but connected in Spain.

    Maybe the heritage of the "Regimen" of Franco is still enforcing this kind of behaviour, where the police are the paladins of some kind of virtues and the citizens they abuse are nothing but enemies to the country.

    I can't say it surprises me, as a spaniard with vasque ascendency i have well known stories of this kind of persecution and harrasment.

    Good luck and nice blog you have there.

    Cheers mate!

  19. This is easy to explain, in recent years radical ideas are taking the control in some regions of Spain, Madrid is one of them, controlled by the PP (reminiscences of the fascism), did they do anything illegal? yes but no, the police can demand to see your ID and what you are carrying but they MUST always use proper manners, even if you smoke a porro, you won't be arrested (unless you have quantity for selling), normally they will remove your drugs or if they don't like you, you'll have to pay a fine (and I'm not sure about this).
    Is this the normal behavior of the police in Spain? No, but there are always exceptions (specially in Madrid and Cataluña), remember that some of them are monkeys with guns, but don't be afraid of their guns, they won't use it, otherwise they would be in REALLY SERIOUS troubles and they know it.
    What about the massive police round-ups of illegal immigrants? well, normally the police will ask about your documents if they think that you look like south American, African, Arabic or Asian, commonly policemen don't speak a second language so don't be surprised if they stop you, more likely they'll think that you are from eastern countries but honestly most english speakers in Spain are British and there's no problem with them, the same I can say about people from Canada or USA.

    I know my English is not the best, but it's enough to be understood.

    PS: I'm at the north of Spain, therefore things here may be a bit different than Madrid

  20. (I hope my English is good enough...)

    Congratulations for keeping calm as you did, it's no easy. First, Police can't search you just because, they can't even ask you to identify yourself just because. They need to have a reason, such as you seem to be committing or carrying something illegal, and if you ask for it they must tell you what it is.

    Second, they must provide their badge number AND POLICE CARD (both) to anyone that ask them. Until they do that the only thing you REALLY know is that a guy paramilitary dressed (illegal in Spain) and with a gun (much more illegal) is stealing you.

    If he iddentify himself and you're not carrying nothing illegal, my advice is to cooperate and let him to search you even without a reasonable suspect. But you don't have to answer anything else like what you do for a living, where you're going to or came from, why do you have this mask. Nothing at all.

    Once they have identified and searched you, if they haven't found anything illegal YOU'RE FREE TO GO. Otherwise they MUST to arrest you in wich case, of course, you say anything else and call your lawyer.

    But I'm not a lawyer, I know all this tips just by talking to them and googling. So don't take them literally and you better check them with a actual lawyer.

    And again, excuse my English.

  21. Welcome to Spain. That's the way the spanish Police works

  22. Spain is diferent, enjoy our police service, there are to "help" the citizens, u know.

  23. hola

    puedes consultar esta parte del reglamento de cuerpos y fuerzas de seguridad del estado donde se determina como deben de proceder con todad claridad. su incumplimiento es una falta grave.

    Ley Orgánica 2/1986, de 13 de marzo, de Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad.


    Relaciones con la comunidad. Singularmente:


    Impedir, en el ejercicio de su actuación profesional, cualquier práctica abusiva, arbitraria o discriminatoria que entrañe violencia física o moral.

    Observar en todo momento un trato correcto y esmerado en sus relaciones con los ciudadanos, a quienes procurarán auxiliar y proteger, siempre que las circunstancias lo aconsejen o fueren requeridos para ello. En todas sus intervenciones, proporcionarán información cumplida, y tan amplia como sea posible, sobre las causas y finalidad de las mismas.

    En el ejercicio de sus funciones deberán actuar con la decisión necesaria, sin demora cuando de ello dependa evitar un daño grave, inmediato e irreparable; rigiéndose al hacerlo por los principios de congruencia, oportunidad y proporcionalidad en la utilización de los medios a su alcance.

    Solamente deberán utilizar las armas en las situaciones en que exista un riesgo racionalmente grave para su vida, su integridad física o las de terceras personas, o en aquellas circunstancias que puedan suponer un grave riesgo para la seguridad ciudadana y de conformidad con los principios a que se refiere el apartado anterior.


    Tratamiento de detenidos, especialmente:


    Los miembros de las Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad deberán identificarse debidamente como tales en el momento de efectuar una detención.

    Velarán por la vida e integridad física de las personas a quienes detuvieren o que se encuentren bajo su custodia y respetarán el honor y la dignidad de las personas.

    Darán cumplimiento y observarán con la debida diligencia los trámites, plazos y requisitos exigidos por el Ordenamiento Jurídico, cuando se proceda a la detención de una persona.

    con todo la policia es un cuerpo especialmente protegido debido a que cualquier prueba de delito implica automáticamente la baja o expulsión del cuerpo, por lo que los jueces y fiscales solo fallan a favor de ciudadanno en casos realmente claros y graves.

    la policia y otros cuerpos de seguridad se sienten amparados en su función como agentes de la autoridad. lo que ocurre es que se cometen abusos de autoridad que son como los micromachismos o el micropoder que relataba michel foucalt, sintomas de una vilonecia estructural.

    con todo si que creo que la herencia franquista pesa aún bastante, y hay un enorme amparo y protección sobre la identificación que promueve la impunidad.

    como decia amnistia internacional, si no quieren ser denunciados por abusos, graben todas sus intervenciones... ustedes mismos y se acabarón las falsas denuncias y de las verdaderas haganse cargo.

    siento mucho lo que te paso, te envio mi solidaridad

    un saludo cordial


  24. En cuanto a identificar a los policias es tan sencillo como que el juez o el fiscal lo exiga. te recomiendo que expongas tu queja a amnistia internacional.

    que repases el articulo cinco, sobre todo el de violencia moral y el trato digno y el derecho al honor que han sido lo vulnerados. y que la denuncia hagas constar trato degradante.

    también que presentes una queja en la sede del ministerio del interior para que tengan constancia.

    la queja es un derecho ciudadano.

    disculpa la reiteranción

  25. Dear Richard,
    I just read your story and I think it's a shame what happened to you. I'm spanish, I've got foreign friends and we never have had a problem like that. On the other hand, to be honest, the atmosphere it's being weird lately because of the social movements. When I went to Puerta del Sol on May 15th, I was frisked by the police because I carried a big camera.I think police's chiefs and governors are not used to do it right when there are this kind of movements. And they are kind of useless (on purpose) when something happens between them (they try to protect themselves)
    I don't think is a common situation but it's true that it takes place more than we'd like it. I guess is like when we see images about US police doing bad things on people, It doesn't happen a lot but it exists.

    Don't be afraid. All my support.
    Madrilian friend.

  26. Nice blog, mate. I´m spanish and live really close to Tirso (in la latina), I´m part of the 15M movement, although I believe It should be more (lacking of a better word) violent. They are violent with us, so we should answer with the same energy, otherwise nothing will change and we´ll get more and more frustrated. I´m sorry for what happened to you, but at least let me tell you that there´s everyday more people that support our cause. Thanks for the post, one of the good things we can do besides violence is publical denounce and anti-goverment and anti-institutions activism.

  27. thanks for documenting 15M, it is a very important task.
    Photographs and video represent a threat to authority and therefore police. It helps to tell what is happening, it helps to spread the word. So, if you are going to continue, which i hope you do, be aware that photographers are targets for police and they can use any excuse to detain you. It's true they are racist and stop foreingers but, if you hold a camera in a protest, your nationality does not matter at all. Can be even worse if you are Spanish, i know stories of smashed cameras and smashed faces and, of course, very little can be done without policeman's identity. Breathe deep, be more aware of your position and do not expect much from undercover police. Most of them are just very ignorant people who need a gun to feel powerful. be careful, right? good luck, otra indignada

  28. Actually they were "cordial" with you. I have seen and suffered many worse stories about spanish police. Here authorities really suck, and the most of them are redneck that have not read a book in their whole lives. Sad but true.

  29. I am very sorry. I must say that the Spanish police is still Francoist (or far right) in a good percentage.

  30. Congrats for your nice blog.
    I am a spanish young, one of this indignados I guess (also known as perroflauta, comunist, terrorist or priest-killer by media). What happened to you is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL and common in Spain. I had this feeling many more times, there is absolutely nothing to do. You have to understand that spanish people have no education about their civil rights. Here is absolutely accepted that a guy without ID and saying that he is a policeman come to you and ask whatever they want. And you have to answer because "If you did nothing wrong, nothing will happen to you", this is taught by parents and schools. Many of my friends have laughed when I explained that in other countries, that would be insulting, of course they say that I am overreacting, but I guess that the role of a police officer is to inform me who is him and giving me an only reason why is he requiring me all that things.

    We have also a problem and it is that we have (Maybe more) up to 4 different police types, Policia nacional, Guardia Civil, Policia Local, policia autonomica, etc. And they respond to different politicians or chiefs, they have nothing in common appart from the name. Acces to the different forces is absolutely different, the requirements and the dificulty.
    As an example I have seen how a guy from the place I live, who used to be drug dealer at the neighbourhood then became police officer. Wow, is amazing how people "see the light" and change from the "dark side" to the civilized world. Yes, but this actually happens. When young you bully, older you arrest. That is so easy and if you want to have tough guys, is a great selection process

    I must say that of course we have also good police and they have a correct training and manners, but that is not the general situation.

    Is strange anyway that a group of them come to foreign citizens, here tourists are one step ahead of the law, here we must care tourists more than ourselves.

    But after all, that is what happens when you change a dictatorship for a kind of democracy and you don't clean the garbage of the past. Even Spain is a modern democracy, the dictatorship is implemented in the minds of the people and institutionalized in the public services.

    thanks you for your information and I hope that you have very nice Christmas day!

  31. Whenever you want to file charges against police officers in Spain you must go to a JUZGADO DE GUARDIA -Pza de Castilla, in Madrid, for instance- and never to a police station. Obviously police offciers protect one another from helpless citizens.

  32. Thanks for the support everyone, I never imagined my story would touch so many nerves. Some replies...

    @Juan - I was not filming the police. I asked politely if I could, and the officer told me no, so I did not. I'm not sure why you think I am a "dickhead" and was "touching the balls" of the officer. Is it because I asked for a lawyer, or because I did not get scared?

    @Biruvito - No need to be ashamed, this is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me in Spain, and I still absolutely adore Madrid! Stay with the Indignados, they are good people who are working very hard to fix the problems in this country, and have even inspired thousands to do the same in mine.

    @Angel - The papers are not going to print a story like this, they are in cahoots with the powers that be and things like this will just make people realize what is really going on. Besides, this doesn't sell nearly as well as a hillbilly in Florida that wants to burn a Koran in front of his congregation of 26.

    @N.Ivanhoe - Thanks for the support, but radical is just a word. You don't think there are some Spanish police out there calling me a radical right now?

    @Aestribo - Again, I have never ever had any problems with the Spanish police before this incident.

    @Foobar000 - I am very sorry to hear about your treatment. I encourage you to question authority every chance you get.

    @Fido - Thanks for the kind word, I am glad you enjoyed the post.

    @Charlie - I would hate to think political affiliations had anything to do with this incident, but my personal opinion is that the PP and the PSOE are probably Spain's biggest problems at the moment. Get rid of those 2 entities and perhaps we can complete the long overdue house cleaning that needs to be done.

    @El Teleoperador - Your English is fine, you should read the hack Castellano in my denuncia! If only the words flowed so freely in Spanish. I was more or less aware of my rights, but actually getting the police to let me exercise these rights was the problem.

    @iscariote & @How - Thanks for the bienvenidos!

    @solomirartehasta... - Thanks for the legal advice. I will forward it to my lawyer and ask his opinion.

    @Tizon - An idea, you sound nice, but next time the police ask if they can frisk you, say no, ask why, demand an explanation! This crap ain't gonna change unless we all take a stand.

    @Dani Ruiz Lacalle - "...when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out" -John Lennon

    @Clara - Thanks for the thanks. Here are my photos from the Huelga General in 2010, and you can find most of my #15M photos on the same account.

    @Santi - Reflexive obedience to authority is not limited to Spain, believe me. It's time we all stood up to this kind of stuff, or it's only gonna get worse.

    @English Teacher - You sound like my lawyer!

  33. @ Juan carlos: comeme los huevos
    @ cheline: no soy policía, no me gusta el tetris y tengo bachillerato y me toca los huevos que quieran de tacharnos de racistas porque los hayan registrado, ami tb me han registrado en varias ocasiones y no suelo ir por zonas conflictivas con mascaras en el bolso y sprays de pimienta, aunque claro serian para condimentar las pizzas...
    @ richard: You are dickheads because You were not in the beach or in the park, You were in a "problematic área" with masks and sprays in your bag, and Also You tried to film them

  34. Where are You from?? Disneyland???

  35. @Juan - I am sorry Juan, but I must disagree. Freedom and human rights in Spain exist in all places or none. What good is it to have freedom at the beach or the park, if you don't also have it in the metro or the place where you are going for dinner? And as for Tirso de Molina being a problematic area, I agree. There are very bad people in the neighborhood with guns that will deny you your rights, if you stay quiet and allow them to do it.

  36. When you got such a massive reaction from your readers, you can be sure your post is good.

  37. Never place a complaint about the police in a police station¡¡¡ Especially if that station is part of the same police agency

    Not only you will be completely ignored and dissuaded. But by doing that you take the risk of being further harrased, placed under surveillance, or even assaulted.

    ALWAYS go to a duty Courthouse (Juzgado de Guardia) to place a denuncia

  38. Unfortunately most Spaniards still are fascist-minded.

    Last Christmas Eve my whole family were making racist comments about everyone but them. All my brother-in-law's male relatives are members of Guardia Civil or Policía Nacional. They're all fascists, including him. They say they're not, but they don't really mean it (a real example: I'm not a racist but I would hang all the Roma). Being married to one of such jerks my sister has slowly turned into one of their herd.

    Everyone in this country complains about the miseries of Francoist dictatorship but at the same time they all seem to miss the culture beneath it. I've lived abroad and wrong people have taken advantage of me, so I know how hard things are where you're a foreigner.

    I don't consider myself part of this dreadful place and I can't see the moment to leave this behind forever. It's embarrassing enough just to show my passport. I'm aware there are wrong things everywhere, but I can't cope with narrow-minded fascism and stupidity day after day.

    Best of lucks in the process you've started. However, I don't think it will lead anywhere. I've even seen covert police harassing a couple of Japanese tourists just because they couldn't speak Spanish. They showed their badges just briefly and the Japanese guys didn't understand a thing and just wanted to get away (they thought the policemen were pickpockets trying to fool them). Sad.

  39. @juan: Es perfectamente legal filmar o fotografiar a las Fuerzas de Seguridad del Estado mientras realizan sus tareas. No es legal pedirte que borres ninguna fotografía. No es legal cachearte sin ningún motivo obvio. No es de recibo que un miembro de las FSE no sepa distinguir un cigarrillo de un porro (y créame que los distinguen muy bien puesto que muchos son consumidores). No es aceptable que ningún miembro de las FSE actúe tras intereses que no sean la protección al ciudadano.

    Si usted quiere negar la realidad es libre de hacerlo, pero le recomiendo que deje de olerse la pelusilla del ombligo, abra los ojos y no sea tan malhablado. Sus palabras son la mejor muestra de su escaso raciocinio.

  40. First.- Policemen are people, there are lots of good people doing a good work, who really want to protect people's rights and keep us safe. However, we must keep in mind a couple of things about how police works here.

    First, they don't like demonstrations or any other kind of protest. This may be because they always put themselves on the worse, thinking that every protest is not only a potential threat to the public order, but a massacre-about-to-happen, so they get nervous and unleash their most fierce and fearsome human bulldogs as a preventive measure. This also has the side-effect of provoking confrontations between the police and the demonstrators, which is very convenient to enforce the violent image of demonstrations to the public, and feedbacking their own point of view in an endless loop:

    They are violent people > we send our most violent people to confront them > confrontation happens > they are violent people.

    This is just a possible explanation.

    Second.- They act as a guild. They protect their colleages against others no matter what the offence to any civilian might be. This is a way to ensure that they will receive the same treatment. The bigger is the infraction yo turn a blind eye to, the more probable is you don't get busted for small, common infractions. It also has the side effect of, as the time passes and this practice becomes more regular and accepted, policemen doesn't have the sense of how serious an infraction against their own code is.

    This is, of course my personal opinion, and the most plausible explanation of what I've seen and experimented by myself.

  41. @G@ttoGiallo -- Thanks, I was surprised, yet pleased with the response.

    @tty -- Lessons learned. I had never heard of the Juzgado de Guardia before my lawyer mentioned it to me this week.

    @Roberto -- I have not noticed Fascist tendencies in the Spaniards I know. Here in Madrid people seem to be fairly open-minded, and the comments in this blog show that most Spaniards think that the kind of behavior I described in this post is unacceptable. I am sorry to hear about your experience with your family, but I know that I would never remain silent in the face of racist comments, even at my family's Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for the words of encouragement for the process that I have started. Who knows, maybe something will come of it. At the next few assemblies I attend, I am going to bring up the possibility of organizing a campaign to require Madrid Police to carry business cards with their names and ID numbers to hand out when they search or question citizens. I think that my story shows the need for this.

    @hombrehorizontal -- Thanks for keeping us grounded here. After reading a story like mine, it is easy to forget the hardworking and dedicated officers of the law that we see all the time carrying out their duties in a professional way. Nevertheless, it is up to we citizens to hold the police to highest standards, and speak out when those standards are not met. And yes I agree, the buddy buddy police system of protecting one another is frustrating. I would hope that some police out there have read my blog, would you agree that this officer perhaps needs some additional training?

  42. Sir, may I repost this on my tumblr? This needs to go out! With credit and link back, of course.
    ~Napalm Joy

  43. @syntheria But of course! I ask all good Indignados and Occupiers to help me scream it from the mountain tops, since that is the only way we can get anyone to listen to us.

  44. En mi opinión el quid de la cuestión, y quizá lo que no entienda del todo un extranjero, es esa difusa línea que separa el deber teórico y el deber real de la policía (aunque es extensible a prácticamente cualquier otra profesión): algunas de las cosas que se supone no debe hacer un policía no las hará jamás ninguno (por ejemplo, que saque la pistola y te pegue un tiro en una pierna, a lo Hollywood, es casi impensable), y otras muchas las hará y saldrá impune (por ejemplo, cualquier abuso de este tipo en el que no cause un daño físico evidente, tenga el apoyo de compañeros fascistoides como él que no le vayan a delatar, sepa que no le vas a poder identificar fácilmente, etc.). ¿Cómo diferenciarlas? La experiencia, lo que te falta si no has crecido en el país en cuestión.

    Creo que la mayoría de españoles vemos a la policía con más miedo a este tipo de actuaciones que con la confianza que deberían proporcionar, ya sea en este tipo de protestas, ya sea en temas relacionados con tráfico: lo único que pretenden es ponerte una multa desde radares escondidos, algo incomprensible en otros países, donde los radares están bien señalizados y son una medida disuasoria, no recaudatoria.

    Lo más terrorífico de todo es que en el blog te responderemos cuatro izquierdosos idealistas, pero la España de verdad es la ignorante, abusona, ladrona y perezosa; no hay más que ver quiénes ganan las elecciones. La España de verdad no se lee tu post, la España de verdad es juan, la España de verdad prefiere ver el fútbol y beber vino en el Bar Manolo.

  45. @JoePerkins Thanks for the well-spoken comments. I am sorry to read that you feel most Spaniards view the Police with "fear." I never really felt that way until 2 weeks ago, but now I must admit that I have a "gut reaction" of preoccupation when I see those flashing blue lights, that hopefully will fade.

    And I think this problem of Police not wanting to identify themselves could be quite common. If a 1,9+ meter Guiri, and a Spanish Organizer cannot get the Police to identify themselves (see link and story below), what chances do a homeless person, schitzophrenic, Roma Gypsy, Sub-Saharan African, etc. have?.....

    "...Los grupos de trabajo estaban ultimando los preparativos de las carrozas en la acera del Retiro con la Puerta de Alcalá cuando un grupo de siete furgones policiales y unos 30 agentes han pedido la identificación a las personas reunidas, en torno a las 17:45.

    Uno de los vecinos de la Asamblea Popular del Barrio de Malasaña pidió la documentación a los agentes y fue apartado del grupo, llevado a uno de los vehículos y posteriormente arrestado bajo la acusación de resistencia a la autoridad."


  46. R., that's the great difference between American (or even British) police and Spanish. Here, there's is this sense of 'untouchability', promoted from within but also from the political sphere (see the riots at Plaça de Catalunya in May, when the riot police attacked with no control to unarmed and non violent demonstrators - and riot police is supposed to have their ID badge visible, but it didn't happen, as usual). Also, as far as I know, in the US they cannot stop you if they don't see you doing anything wrong, whether in Spain they can stop you according to how you look, or the day they're having. In August, when Puerta del Sol was evicted, the first day they only let people pass if they didn't look (clothing and so on) like an 'indignado'. Or you were a tourist (????).

    I still try to understand why, when you ask somebody for their professional ID (police, or even the to the personnel of Vodafone's technical service) when you feel a transgression, there's a sense of vulnerability from their part, so they are even more agressive, and obviously they won't give you any information.

    That sense of being invulnerable - because there's no way of identifying them, also because of the lack of cooperation of their bosses (as you tell) - makes them go completely mad whenever they want. And then, the motto 'to protect and serve' becames nonsense.

    One of the key points to be changed in Spain is that random behaviour from police officers... and I'm really sorry it has happened to you, as well as to anybody. I've suffered that (because of my long hair, or for smoking hand-rolling cigarrettes before it was fashionable again), and it's really unpleasant...

    As somebody has suggested, I'd write to some newspaper, in Spain and even in the US (compare with agressions around the Occupy movement, for example).

    All the best

  47. I'll copy-paste it in my blog (and translate if I have the time), if you don't mind, btw

  48. @QueBonitoEsCriticar Thanks for the comments and advice. As far as contacting the Spanish Media, I did. El Pais interviewed me, but later said that this happens all the time hundreds of times all over Spain, so it is not newsworthy. Please read my follow up post on the matter, if you would like to know how shocked I am that the Spanish Police and Media together say F*** You! to foreign nationals who open their mouths.

  49. Me ha encantado poder leerte. Muchas gracias. Es una lucha que no tenemos ganada en esta sociedad, ni aquí ni en ninguna parte. He vivido la represión de la policía francesa y son iguales en sus bases. La inglesa y alemana actúan muy violentamente también. Soy profesora de instituto, la mayor parte de mis alumnos violentos o conflictivos quieren ser policías. No todos los policías son así, está claro que gilipollas hay en todas partes, pero es cierto que hay que asumir una serie de ideas cuando se es policía: ser violento es una de ellas. Espero que podamos reinventar esta figura en algún momento. Aunque, por supuesto, eso es una utopía. Un abrazo.

  50. Richard, I read your following post right after posting my comment. Even though it can be even more difficult, how about US media? I guess there would be any sympathetic with the Occupy movement... Anything for foreign residents here in Spain?

    In any case, authorities care shit about these issues unless there are important injuries or even deaths, and the media when it's race-driven agressions (or with video footage). And honestly, I think that with the guy in charge of the police now with Rajoy, things are gonna be worse

  51. @QueBonitoEsCriticar The Police in my country can be outrageously brutal, and bad policemen are not limited Spain. However, I have to believe that if I went into a precinct with the accusations that I made and spoke to a Chief of Police, he would HAVE TO investigate it, even if he didn't want to. Here in Madrid, they don't care! You can complain, press charges, talk to reporters, and write a blog post in English that 15,000 Spaniards read, and nobody is going to help you.

  52. I agree about the brutality of US police in some situations, recorded of not. If you see the case of the police officer in Berkeley spraying protesters, as far as I know he was suspended. This ( happened in 2003, and one of the ministers said 'anybody can make a mistake at work'. Of course, if a teacher slaps a pupil, s/he should start forgetting about teaching in quite a while. But when it is said that the State has the monopoly of violence as one of the pillars of the contemporary state, I think that in the US there's more concept of the double surveillance. That is, the State - through the police force and more (military and so on) - protects its citizens, but is that is trespassed, there are mechanisms to punish that. In the US, I think, the mentality and practicallity of that 'double surveillance' concept is more present than here in Spain, where the police (historical reasons? probably) in any of its shapes (Guardia Civil, local police, regional police, etc) feels that cannot be punished.

    It's, in short, the concept of responsability, and here nobody seems responsible for anything unless it's recorded or written...

    And sensationalism in the media is helpful for the distribution of a case, but since there are no race issues or physical violence (why psychological violence is not considered violence except in some particular cases?), there's no 'spectacle'.

  53. If I were you, I would start researching whatever records you can get your hands on. If you feel that what transpired was truely an infringement of your rights (human or in law) then DO something about it and don't listen to what your brother, el jefe or anyone else who tells you to let it go. It is exactly that lack of action that allows these sort of things to go too far (your Spanish, your history filled with it). I'm not saying go pickup a gun and start shooting police officers. NO. I'm saying do your homework on those men, find out their names, badge numbers etc and file a denuncia on each and everyone of them! Especially that one asshole who got in your face! If you care about your country (and yourself), you'll do what you can to protect it.

  54. Apparently this happens all the time and it's a shame. Spain has changed a lot since Franco, but some people's mentality is still behind, and more people need to stand up for their rights in order for something to change. Starting with simple human rights abuse to the pitiful salaries most people earn here. I've been living here for almost 2 years and I like it, but I always am confronted with poor customer service and bad attitude. Of course there are the friendly Spaniards and well, it's just the negative side of it that's hard to accept.
    I know the US issued a warning notice about the type of experience you had, but it was lifted:
    I think that more years need to pass before the mentality changes, and people working for the public will really serve them and respect them.

  55. Just as a side comment, I find it ridiculous that the police would stop you for smoking a cigarette, but around the Sol area there are a bunch of prostitutes all day long, that police doesn't seem to bother at all!!

  56. Try being a black guy in Madrid, trust me, I know exactly how you feel, and I can totally sympathize with you. Remember the US emabssy had a travel advisory for African Americans here in Madrid. That was only lifted when Obama visited last year. What a lot of people don't know is why there was a travel advisory. Two black men were walking along minding their own business when some bored, racist cops decided to stop them, search them and arrest them. Little did they know, that those black men worked for the US State Department. When asked for an explanation as to why they were holding 2 Federal government employees, they couldn't come up with ANYTHING. Needless to say, immediately after that incident, a travel advisory was placed on the embassy website warning all black Americans to stay away!