The joy and splendor of travel lost on one man

Drop the Camera and Put Your Hands Up!

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As you would expect from a typical Western European nation, Spain features several left-wing, Socialist policies that would make your average American, MSNBC-addicted, Democrat squeal with glee.

Dudes have been able to marry dudes here since 2005, making Spain the third country in the world to legalize gay marriage nationwide. If you accidentally get run over by a bull in Pamplona, your body cast will be fully covered thanks to Spain’s public health care system. Don Quixote would have a field day taking on all the windmills that now line the mountaintops across the country. (In 2014, Spain was the fourth largest producer of wind energy in the world.) You can get high here, too, though the laws regarding marijuana are a bit clumsy. You can grow pot, but not where someone can see you growing it. You can smoke it, just not in public. But if you do smoke in public no one seems to care. Potheads here, fittingly enough, are left wandering around in a cloud of confusion.

But hold on there, Maynard G. Krebs. Don’t start packing your bags just yet.

Last July, Spain’s “Citizen Security Law” went into effect. The name alone should set off alarm bells. Whenever the government enacts a law under the guise of keeping you secure, brace yourself. The only things it seems to secure for citizens are their wrists in handcuffs.


“Thank you, officer, but I think I’m secure enough now.” (photo courtesy of

Critics refer to the law as the “Ley Mordaza,” or “Gag Law.” While there are certainly laws in other countries that trash free speech worse than this one, the Gag Law strikes me as particularly unusual given the rest of Spain’s seemingly liberal policies.

The Local, an English-speaking news site that covers Spain, ran a nice summary of the law. Here are my favorites ways to spend a few hundred thousand euros:

  1. Publicly protesting this law. If you organize or even simply attend an “unauthorized” protest outside a government building, bring your checkbook. Under the Gag Law, you can be fined €30,000-600,000.
  2. Using the internet to organize protests against this law. If you absolutely have to get your friends together to chain yourselves to the local DMV, make sure you send formal written invitations. Putting out a call to arms on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter comes with its own separate fine.
  3. Shouting “This law is a total piece of shit!” at your next school board meeting. Think twice before you dig your bullhorn out of the closet. Disrupting a public event will set you back anywhere from €600-300,000.
  4. Telling a police officer he sucks for enforcing this law. Exhibiting a “lack of respect” towards police officers can result in fines ranging from €600-30,000. So remember, it’s now “Go eat a doughnut, sir.”
  5. Not kicking your own ass while protesting this law. This section of the law must’ve been written by Joseph Heller. You can actually get fined up to €30,000 for failing to help the police prevent public disturbances. In other words, you can receive a fine if you go to a protest and forget to pepper spray yourself.
  6. Photographing a cop who’s enforcing this law. Say you’re at a protest and five cops with nightsticks grab your friend and start giving him the ol’ wood shampoo. If you have the audacity to photograph those police officers while they bash your friend’s skull to pieces, you can get fined. And as I just mentioned, you may also get fined for not helping them pummel your friend in the first place

When the law took effect last year, a spokesman for the center-right Popular Party said, “Demonstrations will be freer because they will be protected from violent elements.”

Gee, thanks. But if it’s all the same to you, I’ll take my chances against those violent journalists with their loaded cameras pointed right at me.

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