Thousands protest across Spain after 5 men are cleared of gang rape

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets in cities across Spain after a court failed to convict a group of men for the gang rape of an 18-year-old girl during the Running of the Bulls festival in 2016.

Instead of convicting the five men of rape on Thursday, a three-judge panel in Pamplona in northern Spain found the men guilty of the lesser crime of “continuous sexual abuse,” according to CNN. Unlike a rape charge, sexual abuse charges indicate that violence or intimidation were not involved in the assault.

The judges’ verdict prompted demonstrators to protest outside of the Pamplona courthouse in droves, calling the sexual abuse conviction unjust.

Amnesty International’s Spanish chapter said the judges’ ruling makes women responsible for their rapists.

“The absence of legal recognition that sexual relations without consent constitutes rape encourages the idea that we as women bear the responsibility to protect ourselves from rape,” the organization wrote on Facebook in Spanish. “These attitudes are dangerous and have to change.”

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Protests break out after 5 men are cleared of gang rape
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Protests break out after 5 men are cleared of gang rape
People shout slogans while holding signs during a protest outside the City of Justice, after a Spanish court on Thursday sentenced five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman at the 2016 San Fermin bull-running festival each to nine years in prison for the lesser charge of sexual abuse, in Valencia, Spain April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Heino Kalis
People shout slogans while holding up pictures during a protest outside the courts of Aviles, after a Spanish court sentenced five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman at the 2016 San Fermin bull-running festival each to nine years in prison for the lesser charge of sexual abuse, in Spain, April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso
People shout slogans during a protest outside the City of Justice, after a Spanish court on Thursday sentenced five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman at the 2016 San Fermin bull-running festival each to nine years in prison for the lesser charge of sexual abuse, in Valencia, Spain April 27, 2018. The sign read: "It is not abuse, it is rape" and "Sister, I do believe you; there is enough of patriarchal justice". REUTERS/Heino Kalis
People shout slogans during a protest outside the courts of Aviles, after a Spanish court sentenced five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman at the 2016 San Fermin bull-running festival each to nine years in prison for the lesser charge of sexual abuse, in Spain, April 27, 2018. The sign reads: "they are violations, patriarchal justice". REUTERS/Eloy Alonso
A woman with a placard reading "You are not alone, here is your herd" shouts slogans during a protest after a Spanish court condemned five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman, in Oviedo, Spain April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso
A woman puts her hand, smeared with red paint, on a placard reading: "Yes, there was a violation" during a protest after a Spanish court condemned five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman, in Oviedo, Spain April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso
ATTENTION EDITORS: SPANISH LAW REQUIRES THAT THE FACES OF MINORS ARE MASKED IN PUBLICATIONS WITHIN SPAIN A girl with her hands smeared with red paint reacts during a protest after a Spanish court condemned five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman, in Oviedo, Spain April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso
People shout slogans during a protest outside the City of Justice, after a Spanish court on Thursday sentenced five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman at the 2016 San Fermin bull-running festival each to nine years in prison for the lesser charge of sexual abuse, in Valencia, Spain April 27, 2018. The signs read "We believe you" (front) and "It is not abuse, it is rape". REUTERS/Heino Kalis
A woman holds a picture of the judge who voted for absolution as people shout slogans during a protest outside the City of Justice, after a Spanish court on Thursday sentenced five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman at the 2016 San Fermin bull-running festival each to nine years in prison for the lesser charge of sexual abuse, in Valencia, Spain April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Heino Kalis?
People shout slogans during a protest outside Ministry of Justice after a Spanish court condemned five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman at the 2016 San Fermin bull running festival to nine years in prison each for the lesser crime of sexual abuse in Madrid, Spain, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
A woman raises her arms during a protest outside Ministry of Justice after a Spanish court condemned five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman at the 2016 San Fermin bull running festival to nine years in prison each for the lesser crime of sexual abuse in Madrid, Spain, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
A woman cries during a protest after a Spanish court condemned five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman, in Oviedo, Spain April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso
People shout slogans during a protest after a Spanish court condemned five men accused of the group rape of an 18-year-old woman, in Oviedo, Spain April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso
Catalonia separatists' supporters protest during a demonstration held by the "Defense Committee of the Republic" (called CDR) in Barcelona, Spain, April 10, 2018. The banner reads "I'm CDR". REUTERS/Albert Gea
Protesters break through a police line after a nine-year sentence was given to five men accused of the multiple rape of a woman during Pamplona's San Fermin festival in 2016, in Pamplona, Spain, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent West
A protester breaks through a police line after a nine-year prison sentence was given to five men accused of the multiple rape of a woman during Pamplona's San Fermin festival in 2016, in Pamplona, Spain, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent West
Demonstrators march during a protest in Pamplona on April 28, 2018 after five men, accused of gang raping a woman at Pamplona's bull-running festival, were sentenced to nine years in jail for 'sexual abuse,' avoiding the more serious charge of rape. - The men, aged 27 to 29 who called themselves 'the pack', had been accused of raping the woman, then aged 18, at the entrance to an apartment building in Pamplona on July 7, 2016, at the start of the week-long San Fermin festival, which draws tens of thousands of visitors. (Photo by XABIER LERTXUNDI / AFP) (Photo credit should read XABIER LERTXUNDI/AFP/Getty Images)
People shout slogans during a protest in Pamplona on April 28, 2018 after five men, accused of gang raping a woman at Pamplona's bull-running festival, were sentenced to nine years in jail for 'sexual abuse,' avoiding the more serious charge of rape. - The men, aged 27 to 29 who called themselves 'the pack', had been accused of raping the woman, then aged 18, at the entrance to an apartment building in Pamplona on July 7, 2016, at the start of the week-long San Fermin festival, which draws tens of thousands of visitors. (Photo by XABIER LERTXUNDI / AFP) (Photo credit should read XABIER LERTXUNDI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - People shout slogans during a protest in Pamplona on April 28, 2018 after five men, accused of gang raping a woman at Pamplona's bull-running festival, were sentenced to nine years in jail for 'sexual abuse,' avoiding the more serious charge of rape. - The men, aged 27 to 29 who called themselves 'the pack', had been accused of raping the woman, then aged 18, at the entrance to an apartment building in Pamplona on July 7, 2016, at the start of the week-long San Fermin festival, which draws tens of thousands of visitors. (Photo by XABIER LERTXUNDI / AFP) (Photo credit should read XABIER LERTXUNDI/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold a banner reading in Basque 'There is no one who judges our opinion' during a protest in Pamplona on April 28, 2018 after five men, accused of gang raping a woman at Pamplona's bull-running festival, were sentenced to nine years in jail for 'sexual abuse,' avoiding the more serious charge of rape. - The men, aged 27 to 29 who called themselves 'the pack', had been accused of raping the woman, then aged 18, at the entrance to an apartment building in Pamplona on July 7, 2016, at the start of the week-long San Fermin festival, which draws tens of thousands of visitors. (Photo by XABIER LERTXUNDI / AFP) (Photo credit should read XABIER LERTXUNDI/AFP/Getty Images)
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The attackers have come to be known in Spain as “La Manada,” or the “Wolf Pack,” named after the title of a WhatsApp chat group that included four of the five men. Before the festival, members of the chat group discussed using sedatives on women to rape them, according to The Telegraph.

After the attack, members of the “Wolf Pack” boasted that the men had “f***** a girl between five” and had footage to prove it. CNN reported that one of the men concluded in a text that the festival had been an “amazing trip.”

The assault occurred two years ago during the famous Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona. While testifying against the men last year, the victim said the five men, whom she didn’t know, led her through a doorway, gang-raped her, then stole her phone and fled, Public Radio International reported.

Some of the men had filmed part of the assault on their cellphones, resulting in seven videos that had a total of 96 seconds of footage which was viewed during trial.

The woman was later found crying on a bench, according to The Guardian. She filed a report with police and the five men were arrested the next day.

The assault dominated local media for two years, sparking in the country a Spanish version of the Me Too movement against violence on women.

After the verdict was handed down, demonstrators protested outside of the Pamplona courthouse, as well as in the cities of Alicante, Barcelona and Madrid.

The attackers, José Ángel Prenda, Alfonso Cabezuelo, Antonio Manuel Guerrero, Jesús Escudero and Ángel Boza, were sentenced to nine years in prison, five years’ probation and were ordered to pay €10,000 to the victim, the Guardian reported.

Over the years, Pamplona’s bull festival has been plagued with sexual assaults on women, with reports ranging from women being groped to more violent assaults including rape. In 2015, similar protests were held after a 19-year-old British woman was reportedly assaulted in a bathroom by a group of men during the festival. She was eventually rescued by her friends.

Days before the “Wolf Pack’s” 2016 assault, Pamplona’s city council added to the festival’s official rulebook a warning against “sexual assaults against women,” according to the Telegraph.

“Sexist attacks against women of any age and in all circumstances will be investigated and punished,” Pamplona Mayor Joseba Asiron said at the time, the British newspaper reported.

“San Fermín must be a festival which women can enjoy freely, safely and with complete equality.”

Both the state prosecutors and the defendants’ attorney in the “Wolf Pack’s” case said they would appeal the judges’ ruling.

Inigo Mendez de Vigo, a spokesman for the Spanish government, said on Friday that they would review laws against sexual crimes and update them if necessary, according to CNN.

“The government has been, is and always will be with the victims,” he said.

But after Thursdays’ ruling, it appears as though protesters in Spain would disagree.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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