December 20, 2014
More calls for regulations after protests
Security forces violently disband roadblocks over firings at BA autoparts plant
A series of protests that yesterday blocked key access points to the City seem likely to spur the Lower House back into action over bills regulating protests.
“The bill to regulate protests is essential,” said lawmaker Jorge Landau, legal trustee of the Peronist Party (PJ) and a member of the Constitutional Affairs Committee which is currently reviewing several bills to that end.
“I think that we will be returning to this very soon, it is essential that protests can take place but it’s true that they can’t infringe upon the rights of other citizens. There has to be a balance for that to work,” Landau told radio Nacional Rock. Following testimony given by stakeholders and NGOs, advisors are now seeking to find common ground among competing bills presented by the Victory Front (FpV), PRO, and Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front (FR).
While there are significant differences in the methodology employed by each of the bills, they share the objective of ensuring that any protests do not completely block traffic. The FpV bill, co-signed by Kirchnerite lawmakers Diana Conti and Carlos Kunkel, is likely to form the foundations for any consensus bill. It enshrines the right to protests but also specifies that police action to clear protests is permissible if traffic is obstructed in the course of protests.
The lawmakers emphasized their continued support for the bills as some of the most vocal members of the Executive branch laid pressure on them to do something about road blockades.
“I hope at least one lawmaker can take the initiative and do whatever needs to be done from the Legislative branch so that this doesn’t happen again,” said Security Secretary Sergio Berni, while adding that the “attitude from the rest of the lawmakers, who observe this as if it were normal, as if nothing was happening, and what it transmits to society is very discouraging,” Berni told Radio 10 in the aftermath of a chaotic day of protests.
The call for renewed attention on regulating social protests was rejected by unions, including some of those who had not directly participated in yesterday’s mobilizations.
Berni also alleged that some of the protesters were carrying stones and slingshots and said that the objective was to “cause chaos.”
Security forces yesterday cleared protests in at least four sites yesterday — the Panamericana highway, the Puente Pueyrredón bridge and at the intersection of Corrientes and Callao avenues — leading to injuries and arrests, as workers and leftist parties assembled to challenge layoffs and suspensions at the Lear car parts manufacturer in Buenos Aires province.
Lear has suspended and laid off workers and has been the subject of ongoing labour action and sit-ins from workers alleging that the measures are unjustified.
The day began at 5.30am as workers of the Lear car parts manufacturer on the Panamericana highway tried to setup a roadblock but were prevented from doing so by the Buenos Aires provincial police.
Three hours later though a roadblock had been established, prompting the Border Guard to challenge the protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons. Stones were reportedly thrown at police and the incidents led to scores injured and arrested. A second attempt to block the Panamericana was also met with stiff resistance from security forces.
Human rights groups and protesters complained of the use of force to disband protesters.
“The repression by the Federal Police and the Border Guard... demonstrates a worrying shift away from the policy of not moving against social protests,” the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) said yesterday.
The CELS has been one of the strongest voices against the bills, testifying against all of them in the committeem, and yesterday lashed out against the use of rubber bullets against protesters. The group said that police officers were carrying firearms, in violation of existing regulations.
The Socialist Workers’ Party (PTS) issued similarly strong condemnations of the police action.
The protest was mirrored by a roadblock on the Pueyrredón bridge that connects the City with the Greater Buenos Aires district of Avellaneda, held in solidarity with the Lear workers. The roadblock included members of the PTS, Workers’ Party (PO), the Classist Union Coordinator (CSC) and the Quilmes chapter of the SUTEBA teachers’ union.
Finally, by 11am Corrientes Avenue was completely cut at the intersection with Callao Avenue in downtown Buenos Aires, again in solidarity with Lear workers. Federal police officers successfully pushed the workers to the side soon after, freeing two lanes for normal traffic, and arresting one protester.
Herald staff with Télam, DyN