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Outrage in Spain as video shows Madrid police ‘violence’ on unarmed black men

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Leftwing parties in Spain are demanding explanations after a video appeared to show a pair of police officers using violent force on two unarmed black men in a central Madrid neighbourhood.

The video, shot on Friday in Lavapiés, appears to show one of the men on the ground and immobilised by a police officer who seemingly has him in a chokehold. A second police officer appears to then strike the immobilised man twice with a baton before grabbing and punching another man standing nearby.

As video of the encounter swiftly spread across social media, a police source told the Europa Press news agency that the two men had been arrested for undermining authority. The source described the men as being “hostile” towards the officers and said one of the officers had been injured. One of those arrested was later found to have drugs on him, the source claimed.

The video provoked outrage across Spain. The antiracist campaign group SOS Racismo described the images as “another example of how state security forces act in Lavapiés”. In its social media post it added: “Those of us who live in this neighbourhood know that these actions are commonplace, and nobody does anything about it.”

Leftwing politicians called on the interior ministry to take action. “This police violence is unacceptable,” Isabel Serra, a spokesperson for the Podemos party, wrote on social media. “And unfortunately – or because of the complicity of the institutions – it is all too common. It is racism.”

Íñigo Errejón, a spokesperson for the Sumar leftwing alliance, said he had demanded a written explanation. “Do not normalise this, do not look the other way, ask for explanations,” he wrote on X.

In questions submitted to parliament, Errejón noted that the video appeared to show “an aggression” by two police officers, carried out on one man he described as immobilised and another who was not resisting. He added: “Cruelty can be perceived, which does not seem to respond to a restrained protocol of police action.”

Errejón called on the interior ministry to clarify whether an investigation had been opened into the officers’ behaviour, asking: “What measures will be taken in response to citizen complaints regarding the existence of police violence against migrants in the Lavapiés neighbourhood?”

The ministry said on Monday that its national office for the guarantee of human rights, a body created in 2022 to ensure that state forces protect fundamental rights, was looking into the incident.

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On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in the plaza of Lavapiés to demonstrate against police violence and institutional racism. “This is a situation that we live daily,” said Serigne Mbayé, a former regional politician and now the antiracism secretary for Podemos, in a video posted online from the protest. “Thanks to a neighbour who was able to record this, the police brutality that happens regularly in this neighbourhood has been seen.”

Mbayé called on the government to do more to tackle racism and force transparency on the police. “We’re telling the government to take action, this cannot go on,” he said. “We’re in Spain, we’re in the 21st century. Everyone has rights.”

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