We stumbled out of the Joy nightclub at around five AM. Suddenly, four, maybe five, police cars came hurtling down the cobbled street at break-neck speed. “My God!” I said to Neil, “something major must be happening for them to tear down a pedestrian street at those kind of speeds. They nearly killed that man trying to sell cans of beer.”
I started running to catch them up. I was after all, an aspiring journalist, and I had an obligation to chase the story, even if that meant quite literally down the street.
When I got to Plaza de Isabel II the police were everywhere. Their cars were blocking off access but I could just about make out some commotion and trouble in the distance. I thought it would be a good idea to try and take some photos of whatever it was that was happening. Then, all of a sudden, something caught me round the back of the head. As I steadied myself a policeman grabbed my arm and ripped my camera out of my hand. He began to shout at me in Spanish before going through my photos, deleting them one by one, before handing me back the camera and signalling for me to go. After the trouble at the Madrid-Man City game, I though it prudent to take his advice.
Deleting the photos of some would-be journalist in this aggressive way may not seem like a big problem. I don’t know if Spanish journalists would receive the same treatment, although the policeman in question had no way of knowing that I wasn’t an official reporter. But this heavy-handed, brutal approach of stifling journalism means that the police cannot be called into question, and only leads to a police force that acts with impunity.
I have no idea what went down on Plaza de Isabel II that night, and I never will, but my encounters in Madrid with the Police have left me with the impression that there are brutes in change of Spain. Tinpot fascists who seek not to protect and serve, but to control.