Actor Willy Toledo occupies the Teatro Español in Madrid

Crowd of 300 outside theater supports star’s protest against culture cuts

Willy Toledo (c) at the Teatro Español, which he occupied on Tuesday night along with a group of other actors and theater workers.
Willy Toledo (c) at the Teatro Español, which he occupied on Tuesday night along with a group of other actors and theater workers.Kiko Huesca (EFE)

The actors Willy Toledo and Alberto San Juan have joined in the general strike demonstrations by locking themselves in the Teatro Español theater in central Madrid.

Along with around 15 other theater workers, the stars occupied the city council-owned building at 10.30pm on Tuesday equipped with food supplies and sleeping bags to spend the night.

“We are going to stay for 24 hours,” Toledo told EL PAÍS on the balcony of theater. Police passed by the doors several times, but showed no signs of intending to clear the building.

The performers were joined in their protest, which is specifically aimed against the government’s cuts to culture spending, by around 300 others, who gathered in the Plaza Santa Ana outside the theater from midnight Tuesday.

Among them were United Left leader Cayo Lara, the actors Tristán Ulloa and José Sacristán, and theater director Mario Gas. The latter two joined in the protest upon leaving the theater after finishing rehearsals for their play Yo soy don Quijote de la Mancha, which opens Thursday.

In the square, Lara repeated his appeal to members of his party to support the strike, which has been categorized as “the first European demonstration of the 21st century,” given that other crisis-afflicted countries, such as Greece and Portugal, also planned stoppages. “We have to stop them because they are going to leave us without rights,” he said.

At midnight on Tuesday, the actor Vicente Gisbert, also locked inside the theater, read out a manifesto in which he accused the government of suffocating culture with the recent VAT rise and a labor reform that is reducing staff at theaters and cinemas.

During the last general strike in Spain, which took place in March, Willy Toledo was held by the police after being accused of encouraging picketers to smash up a bar. He vigorously denied the claims and was released without charge.

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