Madrid – Spanish politicians and welfare experts were Monday calling for educational reforms after hundreds of youths clashed with police in a wealthy Madrid suburb over the weekend.
The violence, unprecedented in recent times in the capital, caused injuries to 10 police officers two of whom were seriously injured. Twenty people were arrested, including seven minors.
The riot scenes reminded Spaniards of separatist violence in the Basque region, but they were occurring in Pozuelo de Alarcon, a municipality of some 90,000 residents, which is known as the wealthiest in Spain.
The gratuitous rioting, by what one politician described as rich ‘daddy’s sons’, sparked questions in the country’s media about violence on television and about the kind of education that young people were getting.
The violence began late Saturday when an estimated 4,000 youths were drinking out of doors – a practice known as botellon – during annual municipal festivities in Pozuelo de Alarcon.
A brawl erupted between two groups of youths, following which police ordered the young people to end their drinking party, press reports said.
Drunken youths responded by throwing stones and bottles at police, sparking a three-hour street battle.
An estimated 500 young people devastated everything on their path, venting their fury on traffic signs and garbage containers, setting shops on fire, burning or otherwise damaging nine police cars, and smashing windows of the police station.
Police responded with clubs and rubber bullets, but were forced to call reinforcements.
Some of the youths then placed videos showing and exalting their acts of ‘war’ on the internet.
‘This makes it necessary to think about the education we are giving our children,’ childrens’ ombudsman Arturo Canalda wrote.
‘Daddy’s sons played at being the bad guys,’ Socialist politician Rafael Simancas quipped, though there was evidence that all the rioters were not from Pozuelo.
The Socialist Party urged municipalities to encourage young people to turn to ‘healthier’ leisure activities.
Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, spokeswoman for the conservative opposition People’s Party (PP), called for educational reforms.
Young people ‘get it all too easily,’ she said, describing them as having ‘little sense of tolerance, respect or good coexistence.’