Scene from last night's historic demo. Image: José Sena Goulão/ Lusa
Scene from recent historic demo by police in Porto. Image: José Sena Goulão/ Lusa

Police’s “football protests set to continue”

Professional and amateur games cancelled over weekend due to police absences

After a weekend in which two professional football games were cancelled (one with dramatic consequences) due to police protest actions – and a number of amateur games also affected, particularly in the area of Porto – Correio da Manhã tabloid writes this morning that it “knows these protests by police forces are set to continue”.

The most high-profile ‘targets’ for subsequent actions are the European league games of Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting on February 15, 21 and 22 respectively, says the paper.

“In spite of the opening of various inquiries – the minister of interior administration (MAI) José Luís Carneiro has demanded inquiries into the Famalicão incident – the strategy of mass-recourse to sick notes will continue in games with a lot of fans.

Police are not being cowed by MAI which yesterday ordered PSP and GNR commanders to initiate disciplinary proceedings against signs of insubordination”, CM elaborates.

“Yesterday, they responded in their hundreds to show solidarity with leaders Barros Correia (PSP) and Rui Veloso (GNBR) called to an urgent meeting with MAI.

“Concern was that the two men would be held responsible for the protest at Famalicão, which the office of the prime minister had described as “serious insubordination”. That did not happen”, CM continues.

But what did transpire was that MAI seemingly blamed ‘extremist movements’ – without naming ‘Movimento Zero’ – the so called inorganic group that has been resurrected in the wave of protests that began on January 7, demanding that PSP and GNR receive the same mission supplement that PJ counterparts receive.

Zero has since labelled MAI as “incendiary” (…) “We are police, we are not afraid”, a source told RTP.

As for the purportedly ‘fraudulent sick notes’ that police managed to present in order not to report for work over the weekend, these were obtained at hospital A&E departments, says CM – “the idea, later, is to renew them with family GPs”. 

In the meantime, the Order of Physicians (Ordem dos Médicos) has called for clarification on this subject from both MAI and the PSP.

Recent changes to the use of medical sick notes – allowing citizens to ‘self declare’ themselves ill for up to three days – are not open to the police forces, due to their legal statutes, CM adds.

The trouble with these protests, according to commentators, is that they threaten to reduce the undeniable legitimacy of the police forces’ case.

No one disagrees that all elements of the country’s police should receive the same when it comes to ‘mission supplements’ – but to start ‘destabilising’ the status quo is an attack on ‘democracy/ the rule of law’, and there ARE undeniable indications that extremist forces are in operation.

CM’s deputy director Alfredo Leite writes: “It has long been known that police forces are infiltrated by those who, for example on social media, do not hide racist and/ or xenophobic thoughts and sympathies for Salazar… But it would be wrong to judge everyone like this. What is certain is that central power should have found a solution to the calls from these professionals before it became a caretaker government. By not doing so, they provided the fuel that has fanned this radical fire taking advantage of the injustices within our country’s police forces to the dangerous point we have reached today.”

Equally, police sources have criticised the minister of interior administration’s criticism over the weekend, accusing him of “a pious attack on trade unionism” within the force, and a ‘persecution’ of police which has only served to heighten tensions.

Today is the day PM António Costa is expected to ‘react’ to a letter delivered to his office by the platform of police syndicates last Saturday.

Meantime, something not lost on satirical show ‘Isto é Gozar com quem Trabalha’, it has been lamented by sources within the GNR (and lampooned elsewhere) that the government is only seen to react when football is threatened.

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