STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
ANOTHER night of street violence erupted in the early hours of yesterday morning in the “gypsy encampment” at Son Banya in Palma.
Two arrests, four rubbish containers burnt to a cinder, stone throwing, Molotov cocktails, and firework missiles. This list succinctly sums up the two hours of disturbances which were witnessed by no less than the chief prosecutor of the Balearic High Court, Tomeu Barcelo and two other senior legal figures.

The third phase of the so-called Operation “Cerco” began at 9pm when officers of the Citizen Safety Brigade set up controls to key access points around Son Banya. At the same time, armed security forces and plain clothes policemen were taking up positions near the conflict zone. All operations were directed by police commissioner Alfonso Jimenez.

In contrast to police controls against disturbances last week, the positioning and strategy for confrontation on this occasion were akin to a battlefield. Plain clothes policemen were stationed within a local school whilst riot police spread out around the sides of the building. This area was the same point from where last week, Molotov cocktails and huge stones were thrown onto a nearby car storage allotment containing some 2'200 vehicles. Rioters caused 180'000 euros worth of damage. It has been a deliberate strategy of the police on this most recent occasion to “secure” this vantage point from which they could later move out onto open land were it to prove necessary. This jockeying for position meant that the 30 or so youths who were rallying to provoke direct confrontation with the police were forced to remain at the entrance point to Son Banya abutting the residential area. The youths could be seen from a distance, huddled round a bonfire, from time to time hurling stones and fireworks at the police. Because of national football matches on television, the acts of violence at this time of the evening were more random and less concerted in action. It was when the final whistles blew that the conflict began in earnest.

Around midnight, the 30 youths headed for the entrance to the “encampment” at the side of the main road. There were insults hurled, yells, shouts of support for cocaine-taking, the Basque terrorist group ETA and their political wing, Batasuna. Occasionally there would be a reference to watching journalists when the youths cried: “We've got nothing against you, but we have against those sons of ........” Wanting further “ammunition” the youths then spotted the four rubbish containers and set light to them, straddling them across the entrance to “the camp.” Slow at first, the flames then took hold. Realising the school building was “held” by the police, rocks and fireworks hurtled through the air, breaking windows. Police responded with erecting smoke screens at which point the chief prosecutor and a police helicopter arrived. To avoid further conflict, police did not enter the township but made the arrests on the outskirts.

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