Posts Tagged ‘spanish politics’
MADRID, Spain – Lavapies a labyrinth of narrow alleys and sloping streets that attract huge crowds of people every Sunday to the Rastro flea market is also home to a large immigrant community that has long resided in Central Madrid’s cultural melting pot.
On Saturday morning demonstrators gathered in Plaza de Lavapies in a demonstration of solidarity with the neighborhood’s immigrant community who have come under recent attack by anti-immigration groups.
Activists described the gathering as a “counterprotest” following a spate of xenophobic actions carried out by ultra right-wing groups. On February 21 members of the National Democracy party fired flairs at the headquarters of the antiracism organization SOS Racism, and hung a mannequin with a noose around its neck from a balcony above. They also raised a banner marked with their insignia that read, “You denounce those who protect our border. Stop the invasion. Spaniards are also drowning. SOS Racismo, Anti-Spanish Organization”, a reference to controversial actions taken by the Spain’s Guardia Civil in last month that resulted in the deaths of 15 immigrants who were trying to swim to the coast of Ceuta in southern Spain after crossing the Mediterranean.
Tensions continued to mount this past week as the National Alliance, an ultra right-wing party affiliated with National Democracy registered to stage an anti-immigration protest in Lavapies on March 8. Reviewing the party’s request for a protest permit on Thursday, the Superior Court of Madrid refused to grant it, ruling that the protests “were intended to disturb public order, and endanger persons and property”. Cristina Cifuentes, delegate to the Government of Madrid noted that the ruling “took into account the protection of equality and dignity of all persons, regardless of their place of birth, race, sex, religion, opinion, or any other personal or social condition or circumstance.”
In a manifesto, publicly available on the organization’s webpage, National Alliance espouses that only “jus sanguinis” or right of blood should be used to determine an individual’s national origin in addition to calling for the expulsion of all immigrant groups that threaten national unity.
This struck a chord with residents and activists who began organizing Saturday’s demonstration through popular assemblies and social media upon hearing National Alliance’s announcement to stage their anti-immigration rally.
“So a bunch of neonazis are going to march into the heart of Lavapies with their banners? I don’t think so. Our people are here to keep things peaceful”, said Esteban, a resident who only gave his first name.
Around 1 o’clock the gathering began to dwindle. A few clusters of participants remained standing in front of their own banners: “Not in Lavapies not in any place. We defend our neighborhoods from Racism.”
Under intense rain hundreds marched through the streets of Madrid demanding the abdication of King Juan Carlos. The event, dubbed “Jaque el Rey” was organized by 25S, the coordination committee of diverse political associations and activist organizations to mark the one year anniversary since the group surrounded Spain’s Congress of Deputies in protest of massive privatizations, public expenditure cuts, corruption and the general “plundering of finance capitalism.” Although the protesters planned to conclude their march in front of the Royal Palace police cordons set up along access streets prohibited protesters from reaching their destination. 1,400 anti-riot police formed barricades across the city using metal fences, vans and their armored bodies to confine the protesters to designated areas and limit their movement across the city. Above the roar of helicopters flying overhead people shouted “policia fascista” before turning back towards the Opera House to convene a general assembly.
Speaking through a megaphone a protester acknowledged the overwhelming police presence: We would like to break the siege and enter Plaza de Oriente, but today is not the day. The police forces impede us.” Plaza de Oriente is the public garden in front of the Royal Palace. Another protester who declined to give his name stated, “the new law recently approved in congress makes crossing the police cordon a crime punishable by up to four years in jail.” He was referring to the controversial new laws making their way through parliament that clamp down on rights of assembly. “Once implemented,” he continued, “they will be able to imprison you for up to a year if you have posted information related to unlawful protests on your twitter account.”
As the rain continued the protesters dispersed, some shouting “we’ll be back”. Waiting at Puerta del Sol, the major public square the protesters had to pass through before going their separate ways, were phalanxes of police guarding every street leading to the heart of Madrid.