Riot police in Madrid, Spain, responded with brutality and batons to the thousands protesting the killing of Samuel Luiz, a gay man whose death has sparked a national outcry.
Crowds clapped, cheered, chanted and waved Pride flags up high as they packed Puerta del Sol in the city centre on Monday (5 July). They were all there for one reason: the death of Samuel Luiz, 24.
The nursing assistant was fatally beaten by a gang of at least a dozen men who retaliated after assuming he was recording them outside a nightclub in A Coruña, north-west Spain, in the early hours of Saturday (3 July). In fact, Luiz was simply video calling a friend.
Demonstrations erupted Monday (5 July) in response to the attack across A Coruña, Barcelona, Valencia, Salamanca, Bilbao and Zaragoza. As unrest gripped the country, many protesters held signs reading “Your homophobia is killing us” as they called for government action.
Politicians question police after Samuel Luiz protests
Podemos, the left-wing party which governs in coalition with the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, tweeted that the country “united throughout Spain to demonstrate our rejection of the wave of LGBT-phobic hatred that has claimed Samuel Luiz’s life”.
But politicians and activists alike have demanded answers as to why riot police used rough methods to squelch protests that rumbled into the evening in Madrid.
From 8pm, riot police flooded the city centre. Officers blocked off thoroughfares and crammed demonstrators in the junction between Calle de Alberto Aguilera and Calle de la Princesa.
Footage posted to social media captured the moment towering riot officers took swings at unarmed protests with batons – with one officer even having to be tugged back – as they sought to kettle the protesters in the Argüelles neighbourhood at around 10:30pm.
Mónica García, a spokesperson for Más Madrid, a progressive green party based in the capital city, said on Twitter that she is deeply concerned about the police’s “disproportionate” tactics.
Such concerns were echoed by Más País, a left-wing regional political party. Its founder Íñigo Errejón vowed to press prime minister Pedro Sánchez about the “disproportionate” and “incomprehensible” harshness of the police that evening.
Sánchez, meanwhile, signalled that Spain’s national urban police force has launched an investigation into Luiz’s murder as he offered condolences to the victim’s loved ones.
“I’m confident that the Policía Nacional’s investigation will soon find those who murdered Samuel and shed light on what happened,” Sánchez tweeted.
“It was a savage and ruthless act. We will not take a step backwards when it comes to rights and freedoms and Spain will not tolerate this.”
José Miñones, the central government’s delegate in Galicia, told Radio Voz on Tuesday (6 July) that 15 people have so far provided statements about Luiz’s death. Police, he said, are looking to surveillance camera footage to “clarify what happened”.
As questions remain unanswered about Luiz’s death – and the police clash that followed – activists have been left grappling with what this wave of violence means for LGBT+ Spaniards.
It comes just days after the central government passed a long-sought bill that will roll out self-identification for trans people, ban conversion therapy and bring forward fines and punishments for anti-LGBT+ attacks.
“We are being abused and murdered for being LGBT+,” the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals said in a statement on Twitter.