On 8 September 2019, Eleazar, a 34-year-old Roma boy with a visible mental disability of 75% got lost in the El Molinón Stadium in Gijón. [Editor’s note: In Spain, the administration has percentage indicators for a disability based on the dependence of the person]. Security agents viciously assaulted him until he was breathless, instead of helping him to find his family. He died as a result of the stress and anxiety caused by the beating. The head of one of the local courts of Gijón agreed in a court order on 10 December 2020 on the possibility of “negligent homicide, or a minor crime of injury and a crime against moral integrity” on the part of the private security guards. This order also ruled “for the crime of illegal detention and by omission, a possible crime of negligent homicide, or a minor crime of injury and torture, to the local police officers who acted”. However, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has just said that it does not believe that such a crime or responsibility exists.
Prosecutors are part of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. They are supposed to look after society’s interests, so it is essential to think about what message they are sending us with this decision. If according to the Prosecutor’s Office, Eleazar’s death is not the result of violent intervention, what were more than 10 security agents, including security personnel and local police, doing on top of a mentally disabled person? Of course, the witnesses and expert evidence are clear about the beating. Does this mean that Eleazar would have died the same day, at the same time, regardless of the beating he received? Despite proving that he had no heart or epileptic problems? Does it mean that society is not interested in a disabled person being beaten to death just because he is a gypsy? And that therefore the crime should go on unpunished?
Eleazar’s detention was illegal and disproportionate. He was beaten repeatedly. He had injuries and bruises on his wrists, knees, nose, cheekbones, neck, face, arms, legs and upper chest. Everything is proven, and there are witnesses. If any person is lost, especially if they have a disability, it is the duty of security personnel, and of any human being with a heart, to lovingly escort them to their relatives rather than beat them to death. It is clear that this action was absolutely demeaning and based on supremacism. They neither acted with due diligence nor ensured his safety for the sole reason that he was a gypsy. Several security guards against a visibly identifiable 75% mentally disabled man. Put your hand on your heart and judge whether this act should go unpunished. Feel for a moment how short of breath Eleazar was while being beaten and how his family feels. Feel the sadness and anguish of losing a loved one as special as him. But above all, feel the injustice of losing him in such an undeserved, violent and absurd way.
However, the responsibilities do not end here. Security is a legal, political and social value that underpins freedom and equality in our democracy. In this case, the company where these guards worked was responsible for ensuring that security. However, it seems that the court forgets this corporate responsibility. Likewise, the Gijón city council is responsible for improperly using its legal, political and social functions. Unfortunately, they have not even contacted the family. It seems that the mayor does not care if a disabled person is beaten to death in a stadium she is responsible for and the local police officers, also under her command, do not even read him his rights. Maybe it was because he is a gypsy?
In addition to this nonsense with fatal consequences, it is also necessary to think about how antiziganism breaks cohesion within the Spanish population, establishing bridges and walls of mistrust, making us sick as a society and as a democracy. On 7 June 2020, more than 6,000 people demonstrated in Spain against the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis. Everyone with a conscience dyed their social networks black under the hashtag #ICantBreathe and #BlackLivesMatter. In addition to the mass protests and support, the Minneapolis city council approved the police department’s dismantling. There were political gestures such as Democratic members of Congress getting down on their knees for nine minutes to pay tribute to the life of George Floyd. So far, the four police officers involved have been fired and charged in the case, and the policeman accused of the murder has been released on $1 million bail.
What would happen if George Floyd was a Spanish gypsy with a 75% mental disability and the crime had occurred in Spain? Well, the judicial institution in charge of looking after Spanish society’s interests wants this crime to go unpunished. There is no fair treatment of the case in the courts, the security guards do not even go to prison, and the people who were touched by the loss of George Floyd’s life are not moved in the same way when their disabled gypsy compatriot is murdered. There are no knees to the ground in honour of Eleazar’s life, nor has the city council contacted the family. Does this mean that there is more antiziganism in Spain than racism in the United States?
In this case, the injustice underlying the Prosecutor’s Office’s arguments takes us back to a tribal society hundreds and hundreds of years ago in the history of our country. It is up to all of us to get the courts to deliver #JusticiaParaEleazar (#JusticeForEleazar). We need institutions that drive 21st century progress by representing everyone’s interests regardless of culture or gender. Our society and our democracy needs a fair trial for Eleazar. Coretta Scott King said that freedom and justice cannot be parcelled out in pieces to suit political convenience. Therefore freedom cannot be defended for one group of people and denied to others. After 60 years of this fundamental affirmation, are institutions and society ready for fairer realities?