Saturday 24th September saw anti-war demonstrations around the world including Washington DC, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, Shannon (Ireland) and Rome. There were also protests in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Damascus and Seoul. I attended the protest outside the US Embassy in Madrid at 8.00pm on a fine sunny Spanish evening. Around 300 protestors were involved in a smallish but very lively demonstration.
The protest was organised by various groups including American Voices in Spain, Asamblea contra la globalization ecologistas en accion, espacio alternativo-izquierda unida comunidad de Madrid, juventudes comunistas Madrid-Movimento de izquierda alternativa, Octubre, Ospaaal, partido comunista de Madrid paz ahora, plataforma de mujeres 2000 and unidad civica por la republica.
American Voices in Spain (www.americanvoices-spain.org) were very prevalent and their general objectives are to:
1/ To promote peace, to oppose wars of aggression, and to take action toward these ends in relation to U.S. policy.
2/ To promote economic and social justice in US policy.
3/ To affirm the rights of all people to democratic self-determination and the right to resist injustice and tyranny.
The Madrid protest took place outside the US Embassy at 8.00pm and placards and banners read `NO WAR`, ` NO A LA OCUPACION`, `PAZ ASI NO`, and `AGREDIERON IRAQ DESDE ROTA Y GIBRALTAR – PAZ DE VERDAD! `
Many loud and lively songs were sung but I’m afraid my Spanish wasn’t up to the job of translating them!
The Spanish protests of 2003 were among the biggest in the world with 2 million protesting in Madrid on February 15th 2003 which was second only to the Rome demonstration of 3 million. 80-90% of Spaniards were opposed to the war yet then Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar took Spain into the `coalition of the willing` or as it has sometimes been described `the coalition for the drilling`. Spain was to pay a terrible price for Aznar’s folly when on March 11th 2004 there was an Al Qaeda bombing in Madrid. The 11 March 2004 attacks consisted of a series of ten explosions that occurred at the height of the Madrid rush hour aboard four commuter trains (Cercanías in Spain). Thirteen improvised explosive devices were reported to have been used, all but three of which detonated. In all 191 people lost their lives.
Official statements issued shortly after the Madrid attacks identified ETA as the prime suspect, but the group, which usually claims responsibility for its actions, denied any wrong-doing. Later evidence strongly pointed to the involvement of extremist Islamist groups, with the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group named as a focus of investigations. As of early April 2004, fifteen people had been arrested, and seven more were detained in connection with the attacks.
Spain's ambassador submitted an unapologetic letter updating the Security Council on the progress of the investigation, repeating that the Spanish government had "the strong conviction" that ETA was involved. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said "I think there is a lesson here for everybody, including the council members".
Aznar’s lies led to his losing the election to anti-war Zapatero who kept his promise to pull the Spanish troops out of Iraq.
MEDIA COVERAGE OF PROTESTS
Sunday’s papers on September 25th had limited coverage of the worldwide protests; `EL MUNDO` had a piece on page 32 `asedio pacifista a la casa blanca`, while `EL PAIS` had a photo of the Washington DC demo on the front page captioned `Cien mil personas (100,000 people) piden en Washington la vuelta de las tropas`. On page 5 there was a piece headlined `Ni un muerto mas en Irak!` - there was also a photo of Jesse Jackson, Cindy Sheehan and singer Joan Baez.
The front page of the French `Le Monde` had a cartoon of George Bush and opined `George Bush en difficulté`. Page 2 had a piece headlined `Cindy Sheehan est devenue l’icône du mouvement contre la guerre`. The question ` Òu trouver l’argent de la reconstruction?` was asked referring to the large amounts of Iraqi oil money which has gone missing. An opinion poll was quoted showing that 54% of Americans now oppose the war.
The demonstration in Madrid may have been fairly small but is significant that many are still active. The huge demonstrations against Aznar after the Atocha bombings led to his demise when he lost the 2003 election to Zapatero who pulled the Spanish troops out of Iraq.
The most encouraging sign from September 24th 2005 was the size of the American demonstration, the San Francisco protest was reported as being a mile long while in Washington DC 300,000 people took part – some 3 times what the organisers had anticipated. Bush was out of town as he usually is when there’s a protest in town but he would have watched his TV that night with growing trepidation.
18 photos are attached.
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