In a nod to the popular uprisings that swept across parts of North Africa and the Middle East, young Spaniards in the coastal city of Valencia have taken to calling their own protest movement “Primavera valenciana”, or the Valencia Spring. Outraged by major budget cuts in education, students have taken to the city’s streets to vent their frustration.
What started off as a peaceful rally against the cuts on Monday quickly degenerated into violence after police used their batons to subdue the young student protesters. In the wake of the demonstration, the country’s socialist opposition demanded an explanation from authorities for what they described as “a brutal repression”. The regional chief of police, Antonio Moreno, defended his officers’ actions, saying they had used “proportional force”.
The following day, Valencia University, one of the country’s oldest and most reputable schools, also condemned Monday’s violence on its website, prompting a response from Spain’s Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz, who conceded that it was possible there had been incidents of “excess”.
Riot police in Valencia cordon off a street from approaching protesters on Monday, February 20.
Student protests first broke out in Valencia one week ago, which is situated in one of the areas hardest hit by Spain’s crippling debt crisis. In a bid to tighten their belts, regional authorities enacted a number of austerity measures in January, including tax hikes and billions of euros in budget cuts. Over the past few weeks, several schools have even been forced to cut off their heating in an effort to minimise costs.
Police in charge protesters in Valencia on Monday, February 20, striking out with their batons. Video posted on YouTube by luisparty.
Police in charge protesters in Valencia on Monday, February 20, striking out with their batons. Video posted on YouTube by terrien1981.
“In the beginning, they merely struck us with batons, but then they began using rubber bullets and teargas”
Shereezade is a biology student in Valencia. She participated in Monday’s protests.
We are a non-violent protest movement to protect student rights. There were around 300 people at Monday’s demonstration, many of whom were minors. We were protesting in part against the arrest of students last Thursday’s in front of the Luis Vives school [Monday’s protest began at Luis Vives. The school, which has been deprived of electricity, water and gas, suspended classes on Tuesday]. The police reaction was really harsh. They pushed protesters against the cars and were striking out at random…
Police baton protesters and push two young girls against a car. Video published on YouTube by PoMeMo1.
There are always 'radicals' who tend to incite violence, but Monday’s protest was more or less calm. I don’t understand how the situation degenerated so fast. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have a permit for the rally, which technically made it an illegal assembly. All the same, that doesn’t justify the violence.
The police were aggressive from the start. At first they tried to break up the demonstration by threatening students, but when that didn’t work, they began beating people with their batons. Next thing I knew, there were rubber bullets and teargas.
The protest wasn’t only comprised of students and young people, there were also professors and parents. They have joined the protests because they want us to have access to a decent education. The government has made so many budget cuts that we can’t even afford to heat our classrooms.
When we protest, we hold up our hands or textbooks and chant, Estas son nuestras armas (These are our weapons)”.
Secondary and elementary school students protest with adults in Valencia on Monday, February 20. Photo published on Twitter.
Students hold up their textbooks on Tuesday, February 21 in Valencia. Photo published on Twitter.
A police officer pushes a student while trying to break up the crowd on Monday, February 20 in Valencia. Video posted on YouTube by SisTeMMaTriX.
Tensions run high after police attempt to arrest a protester in Valencia on Monday, February 20. Video posted on YouTube by giuseppegrezzi.