Riot police have attacked a bunch of schoolkids in Spain's third city of Valencia, sparking a national outcry as well as a flurry of dumb hashtags including #Valencianspring and #Iamalsotheenemy. I guess that old cliche about all cops getting bullied at school might have some truth in it after all. There's no reason you should know this, but Valencia is the most indebted province in the country right now. Moody's Investors Service recently downgraded their bonds to trash status (Yeah, I didn't know local councils could issue bonds, either, but apparently so), and obviously, public services are the hardest hit.
The trouble started on Wednesday last week, where an in-school protest by teachers and pupils against wage cuts and a shortage of resources (like central heating and electricity), spilled out onto the street, "obstructing traffic" and giving the police an excuse to get slaphappy.
As you could probably predict, this hasn't gone down so well. Subsequent demonstrations over the last few days have been swelled by members of the recently quiet 15-M movement, as well as university students. Correspondingly, the police presence and use of violence has escalated, with the chief of police Antonio Moreno describing the mostly underage students as "the enemy" in a press conference given yesterday.
Just to put the police claim that they're up against violent activists in context, here's a video of two teenage girls being bodychecked into a parked car.
It's becoming increasingly clear that post-election, the State is unlikely to repeat the largely peaceful policing of the summer's Indignados' organized protests. And although there are questions to be raised about why exactly 14-year-olds are being allowed to protest during school hours, it's hard not to balk at the disproportionate force being used.
I'm no expert on police strategy, but I can't help but think that charging down the street flailing with a truncheon at anyone wearing a neon backpack might not be the best way of containing a protest.
We're now going into the fifth day of demonstrations, and with "Greece" being the word on the lips of everyone from journalists to activists, it's really hard to see how this is going to get any better. Solidarity marches have been organized in Seville and Madrid for later on in the week, and barring some pretty deft government management, it looks like it's only a matter of time before the bags of school books start getting swapped for Molotovs and paving stones.
Photos by Kike Taberner