“After the 29M demonstration in Barcelona it seems that amongst the riot police (Mossos) there is at least one officer gunning for eyes.”
“Yesterday, during the police baton charges at the close of the General Strike protests, a man was struck in the face by a rubber bullet and may lose the use of an eye. If so, he will be the fifth person in four years to suffer this fate in the Catalan capital alone.
“There were also other casualties, one man suffering a ruptured spleen and several more with fractures in various places. Seven were admitted to Sant Pau Hospital, and others to Hospital del Mar. A number of firemen were also injured by these rounds, after a confrontation with the Mossos, despite being on the street in uniform, helping to maintain order and attending to people in need of assistance.
“Yet again, rubber bullets have inflicted indiscriminate damage on the general public. Yesterday they sowed panic among the more than 300,000 who were exercising their right to show disaffection with labour reform.
“Stop Bales de Goma [Stop Rubber Bullets] continues to reject the use of these weapons which serve only to stoke conflicts and disperse crowds in unpredictable directions. Yesterday it was an eye, a spleen and various other wounds, but there is no reason why a mortal injury should not be inflicted any day now (1). These rounds are fired from shotguns at more than 450mph, the same velocity as traditional firearms.
“Since its foundation, Stop Bales de Goma has spoken to politicians and organisations to denounce the use of these weapons, which are supposedly prescribed by the EU. Throughout the course of these meetings we have repeatedly been told that the number of eye injuries in comparison to the total number of demonstrations in the last few years is extremely small, and therefore there should be no cause for alarm (in reality, no recourse to statistics can justify the use of this tactic).
“We want to respond to this line of reasoning with the argument that each and every time rubber bullets have been employed there have been casualties. Accordingly, we are beginning to think that within the ranks of the riot police there is an agent particularly fond of targeting faces—an eye hunter.
“Last November Parliament rejected the idea of creating a commission to investigate the matter. All the same, we at Stop Bales de Goma have written to several of our political representatives to demand an inquiry of some form into the conduct of the Mossos during the 29M demonstration, and we have urged them to once again reappraise the employment of rubber bullets—we are asking for an immediate suspension of their use. We are calling on Felip Puig, Minister of the Interior, and Manel Prat, chief of police, to offer a public explanation regarding the matter and investigate whether within the riot police squadrons there are any officers who have repeatedly been responsible for these indiscriminate, unjustifiable actions, which run counter to basic human rights.”
(1) And indeed, only a few days after the General Strike, a man was killed in Bilbao from a head injury caused by a rubber bullet, during the ‘policing’ of the aftermath of a football match.
The Mayor of Barcelona recently said that the only error made by the Mossos in their repression of the 29M unrest was holding back instead of charging.