The vice-president of Portugal’s nationalist party PNR was arrested yesterday (November 13) following a clash between pro- and anti-immigration protesters in Lisbon.
Hundreds of immigrants took to the streets of the capital to demand changes to Portugal’s immigration law, as they say there are around 30,000 of them who live, work and pay taxes in the country but do not have legal residency documents.
The protest happened mainly in Praça de Martim Moniz, where around 70 members of the far-right group also mobilised in a demonstration entitled ‘Invasão de imigrantes, por uma justiça social para os portugueses’ (Immigrant invasion, social justice for the Portuguese).
The arrest happened when João Pais do Amaral, PNR’s vice-president, “disrespected police orders” and broke through a police barrier to get closer to the immigrants, a PSP police source told Lusa news agency.
He was released later that day. Speaking to Sol newspaper, he said his arrest was a way of getting the attention of the media so that the party could get its message across.
“If the media did its job, we would be able to get our message across in a free way and none of this would have happened,” he said.
Later that day, around 20 members of PNR also gathered at the front of the headquarters of left-leaning party Partido LIVRE which was holding a debate on ‘how to fight Trumpism”.
They tried to enter the debate but members of LIVRE called police before they were able to.
While PNR said on its Facebook page that its members merely wanted to take part in the debate, LIVRE feared they had other plans.
In a statement, the party said that the incidents PNR was involved in that day “jeopardise the most basic principles of our democracy, such as freedom of speech”.
“PNR’s initiatives reaffirm our belief that the results of the American elections and the Brexit referendum promote the legitimacy of pro-fascist feelings,” the party said.
“This is what we should truly be worried about. The growing echo of populist and ultra-nationalist beliefs among citizens – in the USA and elsewhere – is agonizing and worrying”.
“Intolerance is not, and never will be, legitimate. It is urgent that we join forces to contradict our ‘fears of the others’ and of what is different,” LIVRE added.
Photo: The arrest happened when João Pais do Amaral, PNR’s vice-president, “disrespected police orders”
Photo by: ANTÓNIO COTRIM/LUSA