Residents in multicultural district of Lavapiés inspired by 'indignant' protest movement
An escalating confrontation between police and residents in a Madrid neighbourhood who are incensed by the treatment of immigrants has seen locals driving police patrols from their streets.
Inspired by the "indignant" protest movement that camped out in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square in May, residents in the multicultural neighbourhood of Lavapiés have reacted to recent attempts to detain immigrants by jeering and chanting at police.
Police have twice had to call for reinforcements in riot gear so that arresting officers can leave safely.
About 200 protesters gathered after an immigrant texted to say that police were asking African residents for identity documents. In another incident a crowd formed to drive police out after they arrested a Senegalese immigrant in the metro. Police said they had been chasing a drug trafficker on one occasion and, on the other, had been called to arrest a man who failed to pay for his metro ticket.
But neighbours say police frequently hassle immigrants for no reason at all. "This is a reaction to the police's habit of illegally rounding up immigrants and checking people's papers on grounds of race," said Olmo Calvo, a photographer at Diagonal, a leftwing bi-monthly newspaper based in Lavapiés.
Spain's interior ministry denied ordering police to stop Africans and Latin Americans, or launch special immigrant roundups. But Lavapiés residents say that is not true. "Police controls have increased. Sometimes you get three or four police cars pulling up and they start stopping anyone who looks like an immigrant – mostly Africans or Latin Americans," said 32-year-old As, one of a group of Senegalese men gathered outside the Baobab restaurant. "Even if you have proper residency papers, like me, they start asking whether you have a job and things like that, which have nothing to do with them," he added.MORE