Security Minister Patricia Bullrich announced a new protocol which establishes the way security forces should act to disperse demonstrations and roadblocks.
The protocol, which has been criticised by several organisations, expands the power of the police in demonstrations and road blocks and was ratified by 80% of provincial governors.
Whilst the protocol enables the use of firearms, Bullrich noted that the police will not have firearms in the cases of protests that are notified to the authorities in advance, but only in the case where a roadblock or a demonstration has not been advised. According to the protocol, the security forces shall communicate with the protesters to encourage them to dissolve the protest using short and concise sentences, and if they refuse to do as the authorities say, they will notify the judge in charge and intervene to disperse the demonstration.
Bullrich also noted the possibility of confiscating objects used during a demonstration, referring specifically to those covering up their faces with hoods and using sticks. According to La Nación, the minister stated that, “…we are going to confiscate those objects. And if they refuse, they will be arrested.”
The Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) criticised the new protocol, stating that one of the most troubling aspects is that “it does not explicitly prohibit the use of firearms or rubber bullets to disperse crowds by the police who intervene in demonstrations.”
“If we know they will cut off the Panamericana [highway], the first line of agents will have non-lethal weapons”, Bullrich exemplified, and stated that a minimal use of legitimate violence is allowed —but without firearms— when it comes to demonstrations notified in advance.
Another concern held by CELS is that they consider the protocol to be anti-democratic. On a statement released today, they say that it limits the constitutional right to protest as well as freedom of expression.
CELS also notes that the protocol limits the work of journalists and affects freedom of the press, since the authorities will be able to tell media workers where they should be located whilst covering a protest. At the same time, according to CELS, it hinders the production of photographic and audiovisual records “that can put police work in check – as demonstrated in cases where killings committed by the police during social protests were cleared up on this basis.”
Social and human rights organisations as well as left-wing parties have also criticised the protocol. “It is a fascist response against those whose only way to be heard is to go out on the streets, “said the national coordinator of the Unemployed Workers’ Movement ‘Teresa Vive’, Gustavo Gimenez, according to Clarín.