Monday, November 27, 2006

Walking Against The Flow

There were Barbour coats by the hundred. Spanish flags too, thousands of them, and umbrellas because all those fine clothes don’t look so good in the rain. Yes, I went to have a look at the AVT’s demonstration. It was a damp Saturday afternoon and I had a bit too much time on my hands so I thought I would do an eye witness report from the front line of the Partido Popular’s campaign against the Basque peace process.

There they were marching, of course, in one of Madrid’s more upmarket barrios. The demonstration mixed the theme of opposition to what they describe as the government “surrender” to ETA, together with the campaign to promote conspiracy theories on the Madrid bombings. So naturally the peones negros were there with their banners, so was the entire leadership of the PP – leader Mariano Rajoy, Esperanza Aguirre (she saves on her heating bills if she gets out more), Angel Acebes and even Madrid’s mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, who is regarded as dangerously left wing by many of those attending.

Special attention was paid by many of the demonstrators to a small familiar looking man walking in front of a banner proclaiming that “España no se rinde” (Spain does not surrender). It was none other than the man so memorably described by Jeb Bush as “President Ansar of Spain”. The cry went up: “Se nota, se siente, Aznar esta presente”. Apart from these isolated moments of over-excitement the demonstration was not particularly noisy, of course we heard the familiar and predictable calls for Zapatero to resign; but perhaps the advanced age of many of the participants made it harder for them to make themselves heard. One or two demonstrators attempted to express their feelings in English, my particular favourite was the placard proclaiming that Zapatero is “mat and treacherous”. No, that is not a typo – at least not by me anyway.

So on to the big question, how many people were there? The regional government of Madrid claims 1,300,000, not that a government presided by Esperanza Aguirre should be considered in any way biased. The figure is propagandistic nonsense, and as usual they have failed to reveal the method they used to arrive at this total. The government estimate was 130,000 and is undoubtedly much closer to the reality, measuring the space occupied by the demonstration there would need to be about 20 demonstrators per square metre to get anywhere near the million mark – that would leave muddy footprints on many of those expensive jackets. I walked most of the length of the demonstration in the opposite direction, and at no point did I need to climb over human towers of irate PP supporters; the surrounding streets were virtually empty of demonstrators.

These figures are important because the AVT and PP are determined to try and present these demonstrations as part of a growing civic rebellion against the government’s position, and they are having to deal with the reality that those being mobilised are just the hard core of their supporters. 130-150,000 people on a demonstration is not an unimpressive figure by any means, but it is well below what the organisers have managed to assemble previously, their train is not gathering speed despite the current difficulties in the peace process and the doubts that many people in Spain have about it.

Updated: here are some photos I took of the demonstration, the poor quality is down to me using a telephone instead of a proper camera!


1 family size umbrella per square metre....



They said I was mat! I'll show them....





Crazies night out....




Aznar stands firm..he's in there somewhere....



See how difficult it was to get close?

4 comments:

Nick said...

I love the banner "mat and treacherous". It makes Zapatero sound like some kind of murderous lunatic.

I noticed that coincidently, on the Friday, Bishops attacked Zapatero's major political initiatives in a paper to be released by them next week called "Moral orientations on the current Spanish situation." Can't wait for that.

Evaristo said...

"she saves on her heating bills if she gets out more" XDDDDD

Wow, you went to the "manifa"! I wouldn't have dared... Like you say, this is the core of the COPE, PP, LibertadDigital, El Mundo and the like. These are the guys who are always angry. Only El Gran Pepino has ever spent a night with them and survived it ;)

Graeme said...

I haven't been the same since Saturday evening, it's had some strange effect on me. Maybe it was seeing that little guy with the moustache? He looked very familiar....alomojo, no it couldn't be.

Miss Sinner said...

LOL