Tens of thousands of protesters defy ban in Spain

Anger over unemployment is manifest in demonstrations leading up to elections

Topics: European Union, Unemployment,

Tens of thousands of protesters defy ban in SpainA demonstrator reads the newspaper as she spends the night in Sol square during a protest in Madrid. (AP/Emilio Morenatti)

Tens of thousands of people are defying a pre-election ban on demonstrations and protesting unemployment in squares around Spain in defiance of an order to quit at midnight.

The government avoided saying if it would order police to break up the crowds on Saturday, but at the stroke of midnight officers kept a discreet presence on the edges of the demonstrations.

Demonstrators kept quiet as city clocks chimed the beginning of a new day, many with sticky tape over their mouths in a gesture organizers said suggested they have things to say but were being gagged by the ban.

People are angry over Spain’s high unemployment rate and what they see as the national political parties’ ineptitude in dealing with a deep economic crisis. Protesters built a camp in Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square Sunday, a week ahead of nationwide elections. Since then good-natured, peaceful and colorful gatherings have sprung up and grown around the country under the banner of “Real Democracy Now.”

Many protesters have said they were influenced by recent pro-democracy uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East and one popular chant is “Join us.”

You Might Also Like

Friday was the last day for candidates to campaign for the election for municipal and regional government positions in much of the country. Citing the mandatory end of campaigning, the national election commission banned protests Saturday and on Sunday, voting day.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero did not say whether he would order police to break up demonstrations.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba was also cagey about how the government would deal with the protesters, although he said the police would not act to make things worse.

Initially he said the government will “enforce the law,” but he then toned down this stance, saying “The police are not going to resolve one problem by creating another.”

The ruling Socialist party is widely expected to suffer big losses at the polls, perhaps even in traditional strongholds, having been forced by the crisis to introduce austerity measures.

“They want to leave us without public health and public education. Half of our youth is unemployed and they have raised the age of retirement,” said protester Natividad Garcia, who declined to give her age and profession.

The government is presiding over an economy struggling to overcome recession and create jobs to chip away at a 21.3 percent jobless rate, the highest in the eurozone.

In Spain, rallies called to urge people to vote one way or another are typically banned the day before an election, called “days of reflection.”

The election commission was deeply divided this time, and upheld the ban by just a one-vote margin. The panel was convened to give a blanket ruling for all of Spain because provincial election bodies had issued contradictory rulings, with some allowing protests this week and some banning them, as was the case in Madrid.

Organizers of the protests say that they have no party affiliation, are not trying to affect the election outcome in any way, and are not even urging people to abstain from voting.

“Campaign posters are still going to be up, so why ban people from freely mingling to exchange ideas,” said graphic designer Antonio Quiroga, 27.

Daniel Woolls contributed to this report.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>