Spain Arrests Five Activists For Burning Picture Of King Felipe VI

felipe_prince_of_asturiaslarge-spain-flagWe have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). Even politicians have been charged under the ever-widening standard of criminalized speech. Now Spain has made clear that it is committed to the same trend of curtailing free speech. In a moment worthy of Franco, Spanish police arrested five Catalan independence activists for allegedly burning photos of King Felipe VI.  Much like arrests in Russia, destroying or disrespecting the image of the national leader is all that is required in Spain.

The accused are members of Catalan anti-capitalist party CUP and had already been summoned to appear before a judge at the National Audience, Spain’s top criminal court. They did not show up.  Police then charged them with insulting the monarchy and burning Spanish flags during a rally on Catalonia’s national day on September 11.

CUP is both in favor of independence and opposed to the monarchy.  Many people around the world oppose even symbolic monarchies and the burning of a picture of the King is clearly political speech.  It is not protected however in Spain.

Spain has had a long and troubled history with military governance and authoritarian abuses.  It views itself as past that dark period in its history but the arrests of these activists shows that there remains a fundamental lack of protections for core liberties in the country.  Free speech is the right that protects all other rights and remains the bulwark against authoritarianism.  Without such a right, Spain has an uncertain future.  It is following the mistaken path laid out by England, France and Germany in the criminalization of speech.

34 thoughts on “Spain Arrests Five Activists For Burning Picture Of King Felipe VI”

  1. Sorry to go off subject, but 10 hack attacks have been traced to the DHS. Maybe we have some Russian Americans working there.

  2. Trump be in. We need more photos of his wife to be shown on TV. Now that the ugly Hillary is off the table let us look at something good. His wife is a Fox who should be on Fox News more often. On the Megan show. Then I could look at both.

  3. Issac, are you strong enough to take some constructive criticism? Just saying you must be some kind of leader.

  4. PaulS, I surmise many people like our Canadian friend subconsciously like that Trump was elected. I’m sure you noticed liberals are in many cases, very negative, unhappy people. That ilk love to complain and feel victimized. Now, I know some very negative, unhappy conservatives as well. But, I think that is much more a liberal one. When you’re trying to save the world you have an enormous weight on your shoulders, as well as a big chip.

  5. America is strong enough to support criticism of its leaders. In America the truth can be told about leaders. DDT is a pathological liar, a megalomanic, a narcissist, a bigot, and a buffoon amongst other things. Deplorable/Disgusting Donald Trump. I invoke my right to freedom of speech.

    1. Issac,
      Interesting how those unalienable rights come in handy when you need them.

      It is interesting you are equating Trump to a pesticide. The fact you are still posting demonstrates quite clearly he is not what you claim him to be.

  6. Spain has had a long and troubled history with military governance and authoritarian abuses. It views itself as past that dark period in its history

    The dark period encompassed neither Primo de Rivera or most of the Franco regime. The dark period ran from 1934 to about 1947 and encompassed the Republic, the Civil War, and the immediate aftermath. Parliamentary institutions were unsustainable in Spain, because much of the political class had no respect for the privileges and immunities of the rest of the population. They’re very like our legal and administrative class in this country in our own time.

  7. Arson is not ‘free speech’, except in the addled minds of high class shysters.

    See Robert Bork on this question. Freedom to speak, publish, assemble, and petition ‘derive from democratic processes’. In more generic terms, they derive from the deliberative process in a commonwealth governed by elective conciliar bodies. An upraised middle finger at the King is not a component of such deliberative processes. It’s an adolescent act, properly subject to penalties under laws against lese majeste.

    Spain has a monarchy. Show some respect, chaps. If you want to speak rudely about the head of state, install a republic.

    I cannot help but note that judges demand decorum in their courts and people who fail to observe rubrics can be hit with civil and criminal contempt citations. A great many of these rubrics are not strictly functional. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that lawyers fancy one of their own should receive deference no one else gets.

  8. This is a another great example of unjust laws. They violated the law, as unjust as they are, they should be prosecuted. I assume jury nullification is not an option either.

    I get it, free speech is not protected in Spain like it is in the United States…for now. Every story you post on this subject is an example of what it would look like if we didn’t continue to protect it here. It would be interesting to know if there are any other countries with the same 1st amendment protections as the United States?

  9. Your link, “arrests in Russia”, points out Putin’s Russia (2012) jailed someone for spitting on a picture of Putin. You go on to say, “Now even the last remaining protester is safely in jail so Putin can return to making Russia great again […].”, which I confess has an ominous ring to it.

    1. My comment above should have started out, “Professor Turley, your…” to be cleaar.

  10. The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.
    The pigs in Spain stay mainly in the cities.

  11. Can the blog or a commenter please post a photo of the King so that I can print a large copy and then burn it in my front yard on Sunday in full view of all the hispanics who live here. Free speech!

  12. I think the deserve the punishment for the same reason they young people who did sit-ins deserved punishment. It will change the law. They knew what they were doing.

    1. Paul, not a criticism at all, but could you expand on that? Do you mean by assuming responsibility for one’s protest, hopefully the regime (or gov/etc.) will be motivated to change the law?

      1. Brooklin Bridge – when you break laws that you know are wrong, you can expect to be punished. In fact, you want to be punished, that is how you get publicity. And, then hopefully, the law will be changed.

  13. I am Spanish and perhaps I am bias but any kind of disrespect, may it be towards a king or towards a layman, is reprehensible in any country. Anti-social order they call it in Britain, perjury in the USA. The issue here is not the arrest, nor is the monarchy or freedom of speech. The issue here is inviting hate through symbolism, and in that respect I think they deserve punishment.

    1. Bombing innocent civilians of foreign countries, assassinating citizens of one’s own country without a trial, spying on its own citizens without a warrant and corporations and individuals skirting tax laws by using offshore shell accounts are reprehensible pal.

      Don’t tell us what’s reprehensible.

      We legalize the worst of the worse behaviors that a developed country can so letting us flip off the President or burn his pic is a valve to release some anger about all the things we can’t do anything about.

      Join the club, go take a nice King Philipe VI after your espresso.

  14. Well, Spain’s always been a little fringy like that. Hard to believe we were once the bright light of the world on such issues. Wait until our very good ministry of very good state OK news gets running.

  15. If national leaders and the media were criminalized for demonizing other national leaders, suggestions of “regime change” would no longer get a free pass.

  16. Oh well. Even now knowing this, it will likely recur with some degree of frequency.

  17. Strange definition of speech. Somehow I thought one had to say something, not just flic a Bic.

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