Another night of violence in La Linea
Violence in La Linea escalated on Wednesday night as people once again took to the streets to protest the deaths of two men at sea for the third day.
A shot was fired at a Spanish police van, missiles including Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers, a Policia Nacional van was set on fire and skips were torched as the violence spread to other parts of the city.
A peaceful protest was held earlier on Wednesday afternoon, where crowds who blame law enforcement agencies for the deaths called for “justice” for the two men, aged 19 and 51.
But later in the evening officers once again came across violent scenes in La Atunara and San Bernardo, but also La Palomeras, Los Junquillos and Nueva Linea.
On Thursday, the La Linea City Council “lamented” the violence and the mayor, Juan Franco, called for action against the “contagious effect” of violence on the streets.
An emergency security meeting was held in the afternoon and Mr Franco said extra resources will be on the streets, adding he hoped to “recover normality after this nightmare” in La Linea.
According to a statement from the local government, the cost of damage is already estimated at some €300,000.
This includes fire damage to some 40 palm trees, 22 skips, various vehicles and beach equipment, including the wooden walkway that is in place to help disability access to the beach.
The council has also found graffiti marked on various school buildings across the city.
For now, the priority is to contain the violence, Mr Franco said.
He “lamented” the civil unrest that has plagued La Linea since Monday afternoon following the deaths of the two men.
The protesters have accused officers of preventing efforts to rescue the men on Monday after their small vessel ran into trouble off La Atunara beach, on the east side.
But the Spanish authorities have denied those claims and insist that everything was done in order to save the men, who they allege were involved in refuelling a speedboat such as the type used by drug traffickers operating in the Strait.
A spokesman for the Guardia Civil federation, the Asociacion Profesional de Cabos de la Guardia Civil, said officers on land were alerted to the vessel during a helicopter search for an individual who was suspected to be missing at sea.
On arrival, the Guardia Civil discovered a “small pleasure craft carrying the bodies of two individuals who received immediate life-saving help”.
The spokesman dismissed claims that the Guardia Civil attempted to block help reaching the men, adding that the officer being accused of doing so arrived 45 minutes after the incident had ended.
“The public has to understand that our priority is to offer protection and save lives,” the spokesman added.
“If we had the opportunity, we would have done everything possible to save the lives of these two individuals.”
A formal police investigation has been launched after the outbreak of violence and to find who is responsible for the disturbances across the city.
“We are trying to clean up La Linea’s image and these disturbances have led us to take a step back,” the spokesman added.
In the meantime, they are also looking at comments posted on social media sites, while sending a staunch message that the police will not allow the violence to escalate further.
For his part, the Spanish Minister for the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, told reporters the Government condemns any attacks on law enforcement authorities, adding that no further attacks on officers “will be tolerated”.
He said he “deeply regretted” the deaths of the two men.
Mr Grande-Marlaska underscored the work carried out to “restore security, the state of law and authority in the Campo and its neighbouring areas over the past three years”.