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Archive for the ‘Protests in Spain’ Category

Spain’s far-right holds car protest against virus lockdown

May 23, 2020

(AP) Several thousand followers of Spain’s far-right Vox party gathered Saturday in their cars and on motorbikes in the center of Madrid and other Spanish cities to protest the Spanish government’s handling of the nation’s coronavirus crisis.

The party accuses the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of lying about the impact of the health crisis and of violating Spaniards’ rights by confining people to their homes and closing businesses during the lockdown.

Vox called for protesters to attend the protests in their vehicles and thus skirt the ban on social gatherings in effect under the nation’s two-month long state of emergency designed to reduce contagion risks.

Vox called the protest the “Caravan for Spain and Liberty.” “We will never forget what they have done,” Vox leader Santiago Abascal said from the open-top bus leading the caravan as it inched down a Madrid boulevard.

“Do not doubt that we will make them face justice. They know it and fear our freedom. That is why they try to intimidate us.” Most cars and motorbikes were decked with Spanish flags. There were also small groups of people who participated on foot, with some not respecting the two-meter social distancing rules. Protests were also held in Barcelona, Sevilla and other provincial capitals.

Spain’s government says that the confinement measures have been necessary to save the nation’s hospitals from collapse and save thousands of lives. Sánchez said that the protesters were exercising their constitutional rights, but that he asked them “to respect the criteria, rules, and decisions that health authorities have made.”

“This government will preach for concord, peaceful co-existence, respect and tolerance, and not for hate and rage,” he said. Over 28,000 Spaniards have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19. The government says that all the information it makes public on virus deaths and infections are provided by the regions, some of which are governed by opposition parties. No region has accused the government of relaying incorrect data.

Spain’s left-wing coalition government declared a state of emergency on March 14. The lockdown applied under the state of emergency, which has limited the right to free movement and assembly, has successfully reined in the outbreak.

Abascal and another leading Vox politician both fell ill with the virus after holding a massive party rally in early March. The party apologized for going ahead with the rally but blamed the government for not warning the nation of the danger. Abascal and his colleague recovered.

Vox, which is strongly anti-migrant and anti-women’s rights, won its first seats in Spain’s Parliament in April 2019. It then made huge gains in a repeat election in November and is the third-largest party in the legislature.

“I’m here to ask for the government to resign. We are tired of being kept in prison,” said 47-year-old bank employee Almudena Camara at the Madrid protest. Saturday’s car protest follows a week of small protests in one of Madrid’s wealthiest neighborhoods and other cities that Vox has backed.

With its hospitals now able to handle the smaller load of cases, Spain is slowly moving toward gradually reactivating its economy and recovering social activities. On Monday, Madrid and Barcelona, the two hardest hit areas, will be able to join the rest of the country in reopening 50% of outdoor seating at bars and restaurants and gathering in groups of under 10 people.

Sánchez’s minority government of his Socialists and the left-wing United We Can party is under increasing pressure from opposition parties and some regional leaders to move forward with the rollback to reduce the already huge impact to the economy.

Spanish government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero said Friday that the right to protest “cannot be confused with a right to infect.” “This is a country where people can protest freely, but we would like them to transmit the truth about what is happening in this country, where the right to expression is protected,” Montero said.

Wilson reported from Barcelona.

Protest against bullfights in Pamplona before famed festival

July 01, 2017

PAMPLONA, Spain (AP) — Around 400 people have protested bullfighting in Pamplona, a week before the city hosts its famed festival featuring dangerous bull runs. Holding signs that read in English “Bullfight Is Cruel” and “No Tradition Trumps Reason” in Spanish, the protesters marched Saturday through the city’s old quarter. The route included a stretch of the narrow streets that will be used for the bull runs that have made the San Fermin festival known worldwide.

Tens of thousands of partygoers from Spain and abroad come each year to Pamplona to witness or take part in the early morning bull runs, when crowds of runners risk being gored or trampled as they lead a pack of bulls to the ring where they will be used in bullfights.

The festival runs from July 6-14.

Thousands protest Spain’s dispersion policy for ETA inmates

January 14, 2017

BILBAO, Spain (AP) — Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in the Basque city of Bilbao, calling for some 350 imprisoned members and sympathizers of the armed pro-Basque independence group ETA to be allowed serve their sentences closer to home in northern Spain.

In addition to prisoners’ families and pro-independence politicians, some relatives of ETA victims took part for the first time in the annual demonstration. Protesters marched through the city holding placards that read “I Denounce” the Spanish government’s policy of dispersing ETA prisoners in 40 prisons across Spain to restrict contacts between them.

Rosa Rodero, widow of a police sergeant assassinated by the ETA in 1993, marched behind a banner reading “Basque prisoners to the Basque Country.” “All people here in the Basque country, we have fought a lot, we had to suffer a lot. The only thing we want is that peace comes and that peace is also given to these people,” she said, referring to the prisoners.

ETA killed 829 people in its nearly four-decade campaign to create a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwest France. The group announced a permanent cease-fire in 2011, but Spain’s Interior Ministry says there will be no change in its dispersion policy until the group fully disarms and its members ask for pardons.

But AVT, the largest association of relatives of terror victims, urged that any movement of prisoners be done only on a case-by-case basis for humanitarian reasons. “I don’t think the victims of ETA should support having their assassins closer to home just because the ETA stopped killing five years ago,” said AVT president Alfonso Sanchez, who survived an ETA bombing in 1985.

Last month Spanish and French police made five arrests after discovering a suspected ETA weapons trove in southern France. The Interior Ministry refuses to say how many ETA prisoners are jailed in Spain but the protest organizers say there are 273 ETA prisoners in Spain but just two in the Basque region. Another 78 are in French jails. They say many relatives and friends have to travel hundreds of kilometers (miles) to visit the ETA inmates.

Amnesty International says the dispersion policy goes against U.N. standards. The economically powerful Basque region is one of 17 semi-autonomous regions in Spain. Opinion polls have long indicated a majority of its 2.2 million residents do not favor splitting from Spain.

Associated Press writers Ciaran Giles and Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.

Spain: Scuffles during protest against leftist Podemos party

May 30, 2015

MADRID (AP) — Scuffles have broken out during a small demonstration against the radical leftist Podemos (We Can) party in Madrid six days after local elections boosted its power base in several of Spain’s regions.

Around 200 protesters gathered in downtown Colon Square carrying Spanish flags and shouting slogans against Podemos after the ballot had given them sufficient votes to negotiate the balance of power in the local government.

One journalist had his camera broken and several others were showered with abuse and pushed around before police intervened to break up the demonstration. Lawyer Teresa Barrios said she was protesting peacefully when “some unpleasant” characters arrived and “began acting aggressively against members of the press.”

Barrios said the main purpose of the protest was to stop Madrid’s government lurching to the far left.

Thousands of Spaniards protest proposed security law

January 25, 2015

MADRID (AP) — Thousands of protesters are marching in Spanish cities to express their opposition to a proposed law that would set hefty fines for offenses like demonstrating outside parliament buildings or strategic installations.

Parliament approved the Public Security Law last month and it’s expected to become official in February if passed by the government-controlled Senate. Protesters with tape over their mouths and carrying banners calling the measures a “gagging law” gathered Sunday near Spain’s parliament under heavy police surveillance.

The bill is heavily criticized by opposition parties and human rights groups as an attempt by the government to muzzle protests over its handling of Spain’s financial crisis. The law would allow fines of up to 600,000 euros ($745,000) for individuals demonstrating outside key buildings if they are deemed to breach the peace.

Spaniards protest their nation’s proposed security law

December 20, 2014

MADRID (AP) — Thousands of people protested in Spanish cities on Saturday against a proposed law that would set hefty fines for offenses such as burning the national flag and demonstrating outside parliament buildings or strategic installations.

The Public Security Law was approved by one house of parliament last week and is expected to be accepted by the other government-controlled one next month. The bill has been heavily criticized by opposition parties and human rights groups as an attempt by the conservative government to muzzle protests over its handling of Spain’s financial crisis.

Saturday’s largest demonstrations occurred in cities such as Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid, while smaller ones took place in Almeria, Granada and Valencia. Some protesters wore tape covering their mouths and carried placards calling the measures a “gagging law.”

The proposed law would allow fines of up to 30,000 euros ($37,000) for disseminating photographs of police officers that are deemed to endanger them or their operations. Individuals participating in demonstrations outside parliament buildings or key installations would be fined up to 600,000 euros ($745,000), if they are considered to breach the peace. Those insulting police officers could be fined up 600 euros ($745). Burning a national flag could cost the perpetrator a maximum fine of 30,000 euros.

The protests — which saw demonstrators mingling with large crowds of Christmas shoppers in some cities — ended peacefully. Police in Madrid forced media photographers to produce identity papers. The demonstrators included groups opposed to forced evictions because the bill would levy fines of 30,000 euros for attempting to prevent home repossessions.

Others protested an element of the legislation that would entitle police in Spain’s North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to summarily expel migrants caught trying to enter Europe by storming border fences.

Anti-austerity protests: Spain, Germany, Portugal

June 1, 2013


Associated Press

MADRID — Anti-austerity protesters on Saturday took to the streets of dozens of European cities, including Madrid, Frankfurt and Lisbon, to express their anger at government cuts they say are making the financial crisis worse by stifling growth and increasing unemployment.

Thousands marched peacefully toward Madrid’s central Neptuno fountain near Parliament, chanting “Government, resign.”

Around 15,000 people gathered outside the International Monetary Fund’s headquarters in Lisbon shouting “IMF, out of here.”

Many protesters were carrying banners saying, “No more cuts” and “Screw the Troika,” a reference to the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the three-member group that bailed out the governments of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus.

The bailout loans were given on the understanding that governments enact stringent austerity measures to rein in their heavily indebted finances.

Spain came perilously close to needing a sovereign bailout last year and was forced to negotiate a 40 billion euro ($52 billion) loan for its stricken banking system when its borrowing costs soared.

The country has been in recession for most of the past four years and has a record 27.2 percent unemployment rate. The percentage is twice that high for Spaniards under 25 years old.

Spain has since seen almost daily protests by people angry over money-saving cuts and reforms in the education and health sectors while failing banks received billions.

Spain’s central and regional governments claim the cuts are needed to help the country reduce its swollen deficit to within agreed upon European Union limits.

“It’s obvious that the intention of those governing us is not to take a single step back,” said Madrid fireman Eduardo Oliva, 43. “So, it’s in our hands, in all European citizens’ hands, to demand change. Otherwise life’s going to become impossible for us.”

Portugal pledged to cut its debt in return for a 78 billion euro ($101 billion) bailout two years ago, but tax hikes and pay cuts have contributed to a sharp economic downturn. The country is forecast to post a third straight year of recession in 2013 while unemployment has climbed to 17.7 percent and is forecast to keep on rising.

Also Saturday, German police and thousands of anti-capitalist protesters engaged in a standoff near the headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

Police in Germany’s financial capital said about 7,000 protesters refused to move after officers encircled a group of about 200-300 people because they refused to remove face masks they were wearing.

Organizers of the “Blockupy” protest said up to 20,000 people had demonstrated against the ECB’s role in pushing European countries to cut government spending as part of efforts to reduce public debt.

Frankfurt police spokesman Erich Mueller said officers had used pepper spray and batons to stop some protesters from breaking through police lines.

Other protests Saturday took place in European cities including Barcelona, Brussels, Bilbao and Valencia.

“Like so many people, I’m really upset at the behavior of our governments because they have totally caved in just to prop up the banks,” said Jesus Alonso, 63, in Madrid.

Source: The Seattle Times.


Spain anti-austerity protesters clash with police

March 22, 2014

MADRID (AP) — Spanish police and protesters clashed during an anti-austerity demonstration that drew tens of thousands of people to central Madrid on Saturday. Police said in a statement that six officers were injured and 12 people were arrested.

As a final speech was being given, some protesters attempted to break through a police barrier and make their way toward the nearby headquarters of the governing conservative Popular Party. Riot police then charged the protesters, who hurled bottles and other objects, and beat them back with batons.

One police vehicle and a bank were damaged by protesters. It wasn’t immediately clear how many protesters were injured, and if anybody was seriously hurt on either side. Protesters say Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government has eroded Spain’s much-valued public health and education systems, while saddling Spaniards with sky-high unemployment and more debt.

Six columns of protesters — each from a different region of Spain — had arrived at the outskirts of the city early Saturday before heading for Colon square, carrying banners bearing the slogan “Marching for Dignity.”

By late afternoon, Madrid’s principal boulevard, Paseo del Prado, was packed with people chanting against government’s austerity policies and the cuts they have entailed. “I don’t want corruption, government cuts and unemployment,” said office worker Susana Roldan, 24. “What I want is a secure future in Spain.”

Rajoy’s conservative government has a large parliamentary majority, enabling it to push through waves of austerity-driven, unpopular tax hikes and government program cutbacks since taking office in 2011, in a bid to reduce Spain’s budget deficit.

Spain’s economy began to crumble in 2008 with the collapse of its bloated real-estate sector. It emerged from a two-year recession late last year as investor confidence returned and the country’s borrowing costs dropped from perilously high levels in 2012 to pre-crisis rates this year. But unemployment is still cripplingly high at 26 percent, leading many to seek work oversees.

The protest includes trade unions, civil servants and organizations representing people evicted from their homes for not being able to make mortgage payments after losing their jobs. One woman carried a banner saying, “My daughter can’t be here because she’s had to emigrate.”

Spaniards protest Coca Cola layoffs

Sun Feb 16, 2014

Thousands of Spaniards have taken part in a protest against controversial plans by Coca Cola Company to close some of its bottling factories, resulting in the layoff of many workers in the southwestern European country.

Demonstrators, wearing red caps and vests with the logo of the giant US drinks company, took to the streets in the Spanish capital Madrid on Saturday while carrying banners calling for a boycott of Coca Cola.

General Secretary of the General Union of Workers (UGT) Candido Mendez and leader of the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) Fernandez Toxo headed the protest rally.

Coca-Cola Iberian Partners, the company’s Spanish subsidiary, announced in January that it would shutter four of its 11 plants in about three weeks in the northwestern Asturias region, the Balearic Islands, near Madrid and in Alicante.

The move is expected to affect some 1,250 jobs, with 750 employees being laid off and 500 others relocated.

The company, however, insists that the closures are needed to improve efficiency, but workers describe the layoffs as unjustified since the company is making profit.

Earlier this month, crowds estimated to be about 2,000 marched in Madrid and the eastern city of Alicante over Coca Cola job cuts.

Source: PressTV.


Large rally in Spain to protest abortion law

February 01, 2014

MADRID (AP) — Tens of thousands of people marched to Spain’s parliament on Saturday to protest the conservative government’s new law that aims to restrict abortion, allowing the practice only in cases of rape or serious risk to health.

The rally was organized by dozens of women’s groups and entities that fight for reproductive rights. Protesters carried banners saying, “Because I decide,” ”Allow mothers to decide,” and “Mothers and fathers in freedom.”

The previous Socialist government made abortion before the 14th week widely legal. But the ruling Popular Party has long sided with the Roman Catholic Church on moral and social issues and made changing the law one of its main promises in the 2011 vote that brought it to power.

The law needs parliamentary approval where the Popular Party has a large majority. “I am fighting for the rights of our children because I am 60 years old already and this no longer affects me directly,” protester Pilar Rubio said.

Cristina Bermejo, 31, said she felt the introduction of the new law would set Spanish society back 40 years. “In the rest of Europe, where previously many viewed us as an example of freedom and civil rights, now, they are questioning us, asking what on earth we are doing,” Bermejo said.

A separate protest against Spain’s new abortion law also took place near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Among the protesters was Anne Hidalgo, Socialist candidate for mayor, and Inna Shevchenko of the Ukrainian branch of the feminist group Femen.

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