After months of massive flesh-and-blood protests against Spain’s draconian new “gag law,” deemed “the worst cut of rights and freedoms since the Franco regime,” enterprising activists held the world’s first virtual protest, with thousands of ghost-like figures marching before the Spanish Parliament to prove that holograms will soon have more freedom than people. Almost 100 groups organized the action under the monikers Hologramas Por La Libertad and No Somos Delito – We Are Not A Crime.

The controversial Citizen Safety Law, blasted by human rights groups since its approval in the Spanish Congress, is scheduled to take effect on July 1. Its oppressive measures areessentiallythe government’s over-the-top response to widespread anti-austerity, pro-democracy protests known as the 15M. The law’s three texts – The Penal Code, the new Anti-Terror Law and the Law on Citizen Safety – ban and punish with heavy fines and/or jail a vast array of fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly. Among them: Peaceful protest, photographing or recording police, occupying banks, simply being present at an occupied space, meeting in front of Congress, climbing buildings or monuments, tweeting or otherwise calling for demonstrations on social media; on the flip side, police are authorized to carry out body searches, blacklists of activists, and raids at protest sites all at their discretion, whether or not “order” has been disrupted. Some say the level of repression would do Franco proud; others argue you’d have to go back to the Dark Ages to match them. Either way, says one organizer, “The gag law is (the government’s) revenge.” To many, the surreal hologram protests perfectly capture the Orwellian quality of the restrictions: In the new Spain, says one protester, “If you are a person you can not express yourself freely – you can only do (that) if you become a hologram.”