Madrid's Mayor Wants to Ban City Center Protests

Ana Botella says demonstrations like the ones over the weekend are a detriment to the city's image.

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Associated Press

Update: El Pais reports today that the Solicitor General’s Office has rejected mayor Botella's request, stating "that a legal demonstration causes no more damage to the city’s historical and artistic heritage than the usual transit of people and vehicles." 

After a massive demonstration last weekend in Madrid that eventually turned violent, Mayor Ana Botella now wants to ban all protests in central Madrid, claiming that they are a detriment to the city.

Tens of thousands of people from all over Spain arrived in Colón Square on Saturday to participate in "Dignity Marches," supporting, according to Reuters, more than 160 different causes all affected by the country's lingering unemployment and ongoing, EU-imposed austerity measures.

The marches were peaceful until night fell. According to El Pais,  around 8:30 p.m., some protestors began to rip paving stones from the ground while others tossed street furniture from outdoor cafes at riot police. By the end of the night, €166,000 worth of damage had been done. As many as 101 people were injured (67 of them policemen) and 24 arrested, many of whom, police say, have ties to radical Galician nationalists.

The mayor was quoted in yesterday's El Pais as saying the weekend's events "undermine the city’s image" at a time when it needs to attract more investment and tourism. She now hopes to legally prevent any more demonstrations in the city center, asking to meet with the central government delegate who authorizes demonstration routes. It's a step further than what her fellow regional center-right party members are proposing, a protest ban limited to Sol square But delegate sources tell the newspaper that Spanish courts tend to favor protest organizers in such matters.

Botella, who was not elected as mayor but assumed office in 2011 after her predecessor left to become Spain's justice minister, thinks future protest locations should be determined on a "case-by-case basis." Last year, she successfully implemented significant restrictions on street performances.

Below, a look at what the city looked like during the weekend's massive "Dignity Marches":

Anti-austerity demonstrators crowd into Colon square as they take part in a demonstration which organizers have labeled the "Marches of Dignity" in Madrid, March 22, 2014. (REUTERS/Paul Hanna)
Anti-austerity demonstrators sit around a fountain in Colon square as they take part in the "Marches of Dignity" in Madrid March 22, 2014. (REUTERS/Paul Hanna)
Police search for demonstrators as people react during a protest against the government in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
A demonstrator smashes the front entrance of a bank office during a protest against the government in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Demonstrators set a fire and throw stones at police during a protest against the government in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
A woman inside a bar watches clashes between demonstrators and police after a protest against the government in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)
Police crash with demonstrators as they shoot fireworks in front of a Barclays bank during a protest against the government in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Police search for protestors near graffiti reading "Rajoy, resign!" during a protest against the government in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Police remove a barricade made by demonstrators during a protest against the government in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)

Top image: A demonstrator is held by riot police officers during a protest in support of the people who were arrested by police during clashes following an anti-austerity demonstration that drew tens of thousands of people to central Madrid on Saturday, in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, March 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)

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