We Have No Enemies Rather We Have A Job
Why would someone decide to go riot control? “I chose it for proximity: it was closer to home,” explains a deputy inspector, who asks not to be identified. But entering the community of dragons, as they are called among themselves, and as stated in the Brimo shield, the riot police of the Mossos d’Esquadra , “hooked” him. At 46, he has been in the unit for 20 years.
“The camaraderie that is created, the same people always living together in a van … It was your family,” he recalls. Now, from the command ladder, he follows the protests in the front line, but giving the orders.
The Brimo (Mobile Brigade) is a unit of the Mossos specialized in public order. The riots over Pablo Hasél’s imprisonment have put them in the spotlight. Even his Interior Minister, Miquel Sàmper, has asked for a change in the public order model, after a 19-year-old girl lost an eye, probably due to a foam ball (polyethylene foam) thrown by the Mossos.
Public order reform: a politicized debate without proposals. Discomfort in the Mossos due to the lack of political support in the face of the riots at the Hasél prison.
“The politician plays the politician; the policeman acts as a policeman ”, says the deputy inspector. To shield himself, he applies his own formula: “I don’t have social networks, and if I could, I would take away WhatsApp and Telegram, which I use for work.”
That together with his family, and sports, helps him to abstract himself when Brimo takes the covers. “Likewise, they beat you up on TV, on WhatsApp, acquaintances send you things …”, he admits.
Brimo is being one of the determining factors for the formation of a Government in Catalonia. The CUP, the anti-system party and key to the absolute independence majority, began by calling for its dissolution. Now it is satisfied with a moratorium on the use of foam balls, which in 2014 replaced rubber ones (more harmful and erratic).
“The problem is not the police,” repeats a command of the body, about the altercations. And he assures that “no system to work the dispersions is 100% innocuous”. “Eliminating human failure is impossible,” he adds.
“We work with the tools we have,” the deputy inspector agrees. “It is a directed task. In public order, no agent can do something that his command has not ordered, ”he explains, aware of the stereotypes that weigh on them. “They are intentional, they seek to generate that image.
But we don’t like violence, or hitting anyone. The devices that we like are the ones that we return to Egara [Mossos headquarters] without having to get out of the van. You go to sleep peacefully. You watch the news, and nobody talks about you ”.
“Many attacks we receive are to dehumanize us. This makes it easier to throw a stone at us ”, adds the command of the anti-riot unit. And he assures that in the last demonstrations, they “look for the shock.” “The stones do not go to the institution that we protect, they go to us,” he describes.
They are altercations, in his opinion, as serious as those of the post-sentencing of the procés leaders , but shorter: “From 19 to 21.30”. Most protests start peacefully, and in the end, some 200-300 people in groups cause riots.
This is when Brimo acts. “There is tension. The mosso of the van is taking hits. And then he is ordered to un-car, ”explains the sub-inspector. “I am not saying that we do not suffer when a burning container is approached, that we are not afraid. We are humans.
But we trust the material, the team, the teammates, the managers and the strategy ”, he adds. In his 20 years as a riot police, he does not recall ever being overwhelmed “enough to lose control”, nor that it happened to any of his colleagues. “The most vulnerable moment is getting on and off the vehicles, and falling to the ground.” But those situations, “are very short, although in the images they can seem very tense”.
“We have no enemies, we have a job,” he argues, when asked if one side feels against another side in altercations. “We do not personalize. We work in demonstrations with incidents with anti-establishment, people of the extreme right, labor groups, sports … “.
And he shakes his head with the rest of the riot gear, like getting high in vans, being far-right, spending the day at the gym, and only eating chicken and rice. Each one, he says, when he takes off his uniform, has his opinion of things. “The same varied percentage that exists in society, there is in Brimo.”
The unit has also changed, especially as a result of the case of Ester Quintana, the woman who lost an eye in 2012 due to a ball by the Mossos. The main consequence was the ban on rubber balls. “When they were removed, we had a feeling of vulnerability, but we knew that it was a medium that caused us many problems because we did not know where it impacted and caused many injuries,” admits the sub-inspector.
“When they criticize us, or are against the things we do, we don’t cover our ears,” he adds. And he assures that they are “the first interested in knowing what happened” when they cause an eye injury. A decade later, it remains unknown who injured Quintana.
In his view, a tool that works with peaceful resistance is pepper spray. “It does not cause injuries, it is red pepper. But it is not socially assumed. We have raised it many times ”. The decision is political. The Department of the Interior dismissed the previous communication chief by reporting that the Mossos had tear gas.
Before intervening, the Mossos try to mediate, with a specific unit. It is proactive, looking for the organizers, knowing their objectives. “But they don’t want to,” laments a Mossos command, referring to Hasél’s demonstrations. And in the end, as the deputy inspector says, only Brimo remains: “Someone has to restore order when a demonstration turns violent.”