Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Strange Case Of The Muro Bullfight Protest

I have had cause to mention protests on many an occasion. Apart from the large protests, those connected with major strikes or the "indignados", there have been more local affairs. Recently, and just to take one example, there was a protest in Puerto Alcúdia against the new beach path.

The Spanish Constitution defends the right to protest, but Spanish law places certain limits on this right, these limits being not dissimilar to other countries. A plan to stage a protest has to be given in advance and permission sought. The minimum period is ten days, the maximum is thirty days. In the case of what is called "emergency", the period can be as short as 24 hours, and I can think of one example of when permission would have been granted very swiftly - the protest against terrorism that followed immediately after the Palmanova bomb and the death of the two Guardia Civil officers.

This permission has to be sought from the government's delegations, so in the case of Mallorca, this means Teresa Palmer and the government's delegation in the Balearics. There are reasons why a demonstration can be refused, and they are pretty obvious ones - incitement to cause crime and the carrying of weapons, the presence of those wearing paramilitary uniforms (so, by implication, extremist groups), and the potential for there to be a risk to members of the public or property.

This sounds perfectly reasonable, but then one comes to protests which, for whatever reason, don't go ahead and to protests which do go ahead but without having complied with requirements. In Muro town, there has been an example of both of these, and they both relate to the town's bullfight.

PACMA is a political party that defends animal rights. It was due, as it has in the past, to have staged a protest in Muro against the bullfight during the recent Sant Joan fiestas. It didn't. As I understand reports (well one, because there has been little obvious other reporting), PACMA cancelled the protest, as opposed to having had it cancelled. I am not entirely sure why it cancelled the demo. Its website and Facebook page seem to make no reference to the Muro bullfight this year, to a protest or to its cancellation. It is said, though, that the original request for the protest was put in as it should have been, i.e. in accordance with the time frame.

For whatever reason, PACMA pulled out, which is something of a mystery. In its stead, another organisation, ICA, decided to stage its own protest. However, it didn't receive permission. Indeed, the day after it did stage a protest, it received notification that the protest had been denied. Because the protest was not approved, the Guardia Civil deemed it to be illegal, took details of four protesters and they will be subject to fines (which will probably be 301 euros; and no, I don't know why it is 301 euros).

There is due to be a music benefit event to raise funds to pay these anticipated fines, assuming they are levied. An example of a 301 euros fine for an unauthorised protest in Mallorca was that handed to the then president of the local television and radio station IB3 in December last year (which is why I know the 301 euros sum).

A number of issues arise from all this. One is why PACMA apparently cancelled its protest. A second is why ICA went ahead with its, knowing it was not authorised. A third is why the protest was subsequently found to have been refused, and a fourth is why fines might be levied. As far as the latter is concerned, well this is the strict letter of the law, but one must ask: have there been other unauthorised protests of a different sort which have escaped sanction? Perhaps there have been, but then one comes to the second point. Did ICA go ahead with its protest expecting what has resulted?

In the past, there has been evidence of different animal-rights groups not singing from the same hymn sheet. This happened, for instance, with a protest in Fornalutx against the bull run. So, might it be that there is some sort of battle between these different groups?

While ICA's protest might, I say might, have been a publicity stunt, one that was undertaken with full knowledge of the consequences, there is still the matter of the government's delegate having refused permission. On what grounds? Yes there have been incidents in the past, amounting to little more than insults being hurled, but could an anti-bullfight protest be truly looked upon as posing a safety risk?

It's a strange one. On the face of it, and despite the lack of authorisation, sanctions against the protesters seem a bit harsh. But otherwise, there is much about the whole affair that doesn't quite make sense.

Any comments to please.

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