Catalan police unions demand an urgent meeting with Home Affairs Minister because they are "at their limit"

Catalan police unrest at the lack of political support for the riots

3 min
A cordon with agents of the Brimo of the Mossos during the third night of protests by Hasél in Barcelona.

BarcelonaIt's been four days since the protests began in Catalonia against the imprisonment of Pablo Hasél and every night has ended with riots in different cities. The performance of the Mossos d'Esquadra has received criticism from political parties, including JxCat -which manages Home Affairs-. This, added to the statements of the Home Affairs Minister, Miquel Sàmper, who called for an "urgent" review of the model of public order, has generated discomfort in the force to the point that messages have circulated calling to stop working - because they do not have the right to strike -, although at the moment there are no work absences. This Friday the vice-president of the Govern, Pere Aragonès, has defended the police but has anticipated changes, and the top of the police force has met in the central complex Egara and has shown concern about the violence in the street and towards the agents.

In fact, this Saturday all the unions of the Mossos have released a statement in which they demand an urgent meeting (if possible, this weekend) with Minister Sàmper to seek an "immediate solution" in the situation generated as a result of the disturbances of recent days because they say they are "at their limit". They say that the mood in the police force is "very tense" after criticism of their actions in the demonstrations about Hasél.

"It seems that we are always the bad guys in the movie. We are fed up and tired of many years", says the secretary general of the Mossos' Union (Sicme), Jordi Silva. "There is no talk of violence when we have received attacks in a police station and colleagues. There is only talk of reviewing the model when it is one of the most highly valued by citizens", he added. Sàmper described as "gratuitous violence" and condemned "with bold and capital letters" the riots the day after the first night. But since then he has not appeared again and the staff misses more support: "We want coherence. It is not the Mossos who run Home Affairs", the spokesman for the SPC union, David Miquel, questions.

The agents see that the police, coinciding with the protests by Hasél and the negotiations for the new Government, has been placed in the middle of the debate. Miquel reproaches politicians for only criticizing the riot police "when they know they can't do without public order". "In a demonstration we defend the institutions, their headquarters and the rest of the citizenship of violent groups. Do they not want us to do this?", Silva wonders. The spokesman for Uspac, Albert Palacio, says that "the only thing they are looking for is the profit of forming a Government". Despite this anger, he states that they "will not call to stop working massively, but we give voice to the continuous mistreatment of the Mossos".

The spokesman of Fepol, Toni Castejón, thinks that the internal calls to stop working for the discomfort of the last days "are a warning". "We have never seen it happen because we are professionals, but we have been disavowed so much that this is on the table", he warns.

It will be necessary to look for responsibilities

In an attempt to placate this noise in the police force, Aragonès has stressed that an "eventual police misconduct can not stain" the work of the 17,000 agents of the Catalan police who work to "protect security and the rights and freedoms of citizens". The debate about the riot police has been, to begin with, about the case of a 19-year-old girl who lost an eye in Tuesday's march in Barcelona and who suffered the injury when the Mossos were firing foam bullets, but there is still no report confirming that the cause is one of the bullets. 

The vice president has thus tried to navigate the complicated scenario that lies ahead if he wants to be the future president of the Generalitat, since he does not want to reach the front of the administration confronted with the Mossos but needs the votes of the CUP - who is concerned with the riot police - to be invested. With Junts also questioning the police action and defending a change of model even through the mouth of Sàmper, the redefinition of Home Affairs has become the thorniest issue in the negotiations for the investiture. The room for manoeuvre is scarce, but on the table will be in the coming days the momentum of a debate on foam bullets and public order devices, the need to audit the malpractice of some agents, and specific changes in the Mossos. The consensus around these aspects will depend on the investiture of Aragonès but also the internal peace in the police force.

Despite the fact that on the third night of the protests the Mossos only launched 14 foam bullets - in the previous two there were 420 - sources in the police force have ruled out any indication of using them less. The leadership has said they are "the most interested" in clarifying the cause of the loss of the girl's eye and has shown a willingness to flee from corporatism and be self-critical. They have considered that it corresponds to society, the Parliament and the Catalan Government to decide the model of public order and that the Mossos "will adapt" to it.