Sunday, March 18, 2007

Reclaiming The Streets

I wasn't planning to post any more for the moment about demonstrations in Madrid, but I think it’s only fair to correct the image that people may be getting of the city as a place where only the right wing come out onto the streets. I fully accept I may have contributed to this image with my previous posts on these constant anti-government protests.

Anyway, with the Partido Popular (PP) inflicting the “civic rebellion” on poor defenceless Pamplona yesterday, the streets of Madrid were left clear for a demonstration marking the anniversary of the start of the invasion of Iraq. Whilst the attendance didn’t get near to that achieved by the angry right (the Manifestómetro put it at around 50,000), or anywhere close to the massive anti-war demonstrations that preceded the invasion, it was still a respectable figure. That so many people are still prepared to be out protesting four years after the invasion only serves to emphasise what a disastrous venture it was.

This was a normal demonstration, the stage management that forms so much a part of the PP’s marches was completely absent. There was nobody there to artificially slow down the pace; I walked past the front of the march without actually being aware of it. This time I was there as a participant, not just an observer, and I felt much more at home here. The music at the end was better too, I don’t care if it offends patriots – I just prefer Peter Tosh to anybody’s national anthem.

The only moment of real tension was when the police opened up one side of the street, where thousands of people were still marching, to traffic. I don’t know whether this was a provocation, or simply stupidity; with Madrid’s administration both are equally possible. In any case the demonstrators cut the street, a couple of hundred cars had to turn around and go back, and the demonstration was allowed to occupy the space that it needed without a line of traffic coming down the middle.

Traffic jam....demonstrators get the right of way

The speeches at the end emphasised a simple but important detail, those marching yesterday could lament all of the deaths caused by war and terrorism, unlike those who so carefully select the victims they choose to honour and forget the rest.

Here's a flag you won't find on the PP's marches....¡Viva la Republica!

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