World

Demonstrations in Spanish cities protest large fines set by new security law

  • A policeman communicates with a demonstrator by a cordoned off street,  during a protest against Spanish Citizens Security Law in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Thousands of people have gathered in several Spanish cities to protest against a new law that sets hefty fines for offenses such as burning the national flag and holding demonstrations outside parliament buildings or strategic installations. Also can be fined protesters who prevent authorities from carrying out evictions, insulting a police officer and disseminating photographs of police officers that endanger them or police operations. The legislation also allows for the summary expulsion of migrants entering the country's North African enclaves illegally. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

    A policeman communicates with a demonstrator by a cordoned off street, during a protest against Spanish Citizens Security Law in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Thousands of people have gathered in several Spanish cities to protest against a new law that sets hefty fines for offenses such as burning the national flag and holding demonstrations outside parliament buildings or strategic installations. Also can be fined protesters who prevent authorities from carrying out evictions, insulting a police officer and disseminating photographs of police officers that endanger them or police operations. The legislation also allows for the summary expulsion of migrants entering the country's North African enclaves illegally. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)  (The Associated Press)

  • Photographers raise their cameras in front of police officers during a protest against Spanish Citizens Security Law in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Thousands of people have gathered in several Spanish cities to protest against a new law that sets hefty fines for offenses such as burning the national flag and holding demonstrations outside parliament buildings or strategic installations. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

    Photographers raise their cameras in front of police officers during a protest against Spanish Citizens Security Law in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Thousands of people have gathered in several Spanish cities to protest against a new law that sets hefty fines for offenses such as burning the national flag and holding demonstrations outside parliament buildings or strategic installations. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)  (The Associated Press)

  • Terexe Lopez, 33 years old,  covers her mouth during a protest against Spanish Citizens Security Law, in Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Today citizens protested in Spain against the Citizen Security Law that was approved by the Government alone last December the 11th. Civil rights collectives (more than 80) were demonstrated in Spain against the "Gag Law", because they believe the law limits fundamental rights. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

    Terexe Lopez, 33 years old, covers her mouth during a protest against Spanish Citizens Security Law, in Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Today citizens protested in Spain against the Citizen Security Law that was approved by the Government alone last December the 11th. Civil rights collectives (more than 80) were demonstrated in Spain against the "Gag Law", because they believe the law limits fundamental rights. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)  (The Associated Press)

Thousands of people protested in Spanish cities on Saturday against a new law that sets hefty fines for offenses such as burning the national flag and demonstrating outside parliament buildings or strategic installations.

The Public Security Law, which was approved last week by parliament, has been heavily criticized by opposition parties and human rights groups as an attempt by the conservative government to muzzle protests over its handling of Spain's financial crisis.

Saturday's largest demonstrations occurred in cities such as Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid, while smaller ones took place in Almeria, Granada and Valencia. Some protesters wore tape covering their mouths and carried placards calling the measures a "gagging law."

The new law allows fines of up to 30,000 euros ($37,000) for disseminating photographs of police officers that are deemed to endanger them or their operations.

Individuals participating in demonstrations outside parliament buildings or key installations could be fined up to 600,000 euros ($745,000), if they are considered to breach the peace. Those insulting police officers could be fined up 600 euros ($745). Burning a national flag could cost the perpetrator a maximum fine of 30,000 euros.

The protests — which saw demonstrators mingling with large crowds of Christmas shoppers in some cities — ended peacefully. Police in Madrid forced media photographers to produce identity papers.

The demonstrators included groups opposed to forced evictions because the law can levy fines of 30,000 euros for attempting to prevent home repossessions.

Others protested an element of the new law that entitles police in Spain's North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to summarily expel migrants caught trying to enter Europe by storming border fences.