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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
A Momentous Week in Madrid: from Tragedy to Celebration

 

Douglas Hamilton • 21 March 2004

On Friday 12 March 2004, under pouring rain, the streets of central Madrid were a sea of umbrellas. People gathered in their hundreds of thousands to grieve and give their solidarity to the families and friends of the 200 people who had died the morning before in multiple bombings placed by supporters of Al Qaeda. Just over a week on, many of those people again filled the streets of central Madrid. This time the air was warm, the sky was clear and the atmosphere very different as the sun set over the city.

Like many other hundreds of thousands around the world, madrileños were commemorating the invasion of Iraq a year before. In the Spanish state, demonstrations took place in almost every city - Barcelona (estimated to be the biggest at 200,000), Valencia, Alicante, Sevilla, Zaragoza, Logroño, Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza, Santiago, Coruña, Vigo, Vallodolid, Burgos, Palencia, León, Zamora, Segovia, Soria and Oviedo, and in the Basque Country in Bilbao, San Sebastián and Vitoria . People filed slowly through their streets demanding an end to the occupation of Iraq, the withdrawal of Spanish troops and, as the posters said, the right of peoples to national sovereignty and self-determination.

While many of the speeches from the platform in Madrid were not surprisingly sombre in tone, given what had happened so recently in the city and the continuing tragedy of what continues daily in Iraq, the atmosphere in Plaza de Cibeles, and finally as the march congregated in Puerta del Sol, was one of pure celebration. After just over a week since the bombings, people now felt that they could let themselves go in an outburst of joyous chanting. "No to the war" rang out constantly as the marchers passed by. However, the chant that received most deafening support was: "What happiness; a Spain without Aznar!" (it rhymes in Spanish: ¡Que felicidad; un España sin Aznar!).

A year on from the invasion of Iraq, the rally supported by 37 social organisations - trade unions, political parties (in particular the newly elected Spanish Socialist Party and Left Unity), cultural groups, NGOs and representatives of civil society - used the occasion to celebrate the removal from government in last Sunday's elections of the deeply despised, reactionary and lap-dog of George Bush, José María Aznar. As many placards said, this was the funeral of the right-wing Popular Party (or as some placards called it the 'dangerous party' - 'Partido Peligroso' in Spanish).

It has been a highly momentous week in Madrid - from tragedy to joy, from sorrow to celebration. José Saramago, the Portuguese Nobel prize winning writer, in what will surely become a telling phrase in the future, described Madrid from the platform at the rally as "the moral capital of Europe".

The new 'socialist' Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has huge challenges ahead. However, already he has reaffirmed his election commitment to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, saying that terrorism cannot be defeated by war. Moreover, he has prioritised domestic violence, housing and education as his political priorities. He may even open the way for a serious 'peace process' in the Basque Country whatever obstacles may stand in his way, including the prejudices of many in his own party. Many of the necessary conditions would seem to be right for such a move - greater openness and flexibility towards dialogue on the part of the new socialist government; clear political and military weaknesses and demands in the left nationalist movement in the Basque Country; the existing ETA cease-fire in Catalonia; a deep revulsion towards the use of political violence amongst the people of the Spanish state; and the strong electoral support for nationalist parties across all the Spanish state, but particularly in Catalonia where left-leaning parties now make up the vast majority of electoral representation.

Time will soon tell if Zapatero and his government have the foresight and nerve to make such moves. In the meantime, let's all rejoice in a Spain without Aznar.




 







 


 

 

 

 

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Index: Current Articles



22 March 2004

 

Other Articles From This Issue:

 

A Momentous Week in Madrid
Douglas Hamilton

 

Shinner Sing-A-Long
Brian Mór

 

Biggles and the Provos

Kevin Bean

 

'The Solidarity of Those Who Struggle for Justice'
Willie Gallagher

 

Truth, Power and Dissent
Anthony McIntyre

 

The Irish Hero - A Multidisciplinary Conference in Irish Studies
Centre for Irish Studies

 

The 2004 Jonathan Swift Poetry Competition
Dr John Hirsch

 

The Letters page has been updated.

 

19 March 2004

 

Terrorism Defined and Exemplified
Don Mullan and James Mullin

 

Can Catholics Now Trust the Police?
Sean Mc Manus

 

Sinn Fein & The Hate: Interview with Martin Cunningham

Anthony McIntyre

 

Splits and Distortions?
George Young

 

Cellar Dwellers
Brian Mór

 

The Blanket, Eamonn McCann and the use of language
Gerry Ruddy

 

From Paras to the FRU
Kathleen O Halloran

 

"Expose the Awful Truth"
Carrie Twomey

 

The Maze
Belfast Exposed

 

Dublin Public Meeting on Referendum
Residents Against Racism

 

 

 

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