THE END OF JUAN CARLOS' REIGN

Thousands rally in favor of a republic

Protesters demand a referendum to decide on future of the monarchy following king’s abdication

Pro-republic rally at Sol Square in Madrid on Monday.PHOTO: C. Á. / VIDEO: ATLAS (atlas)

Thousands of people came out across Spain on Monday evening to demand the abolition of the monarchy and a republican system of government.

Protesters also called for a referendum so that the people can decide what form of state leadership they want.

The demonstrations were a result of King Juan Carlos’ televised address at 1pm, in which he informed Spaniards of his decision to abdicate the Spanish throne in favor of his son Felipe.

In a matter of hours, the social networks had managed to rally thousands of people in many of Spain’s main cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, Alicante, A Coruña and Vigo.

The capital registered the largest rally by far, with some 20,000 people filling Sol Square according to police calculations. Around 5,000 marchers came out in Barcelona.

The Madrid demonstration was quickly organized by leftist parties and associations, including Podemos, a brand new political party that became the fourth-most-voted force in Spain at the recent European elections.

We don’t want anything imposed on us, much less an old monarchy”

Spain’s old republican flag, dating from the period before General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, featured prominently in Madrid and elsewhere, as did references to the Spanish Communist Party and other leftist groups. Several United Left leaders were in Sol, as was the head of the green party Equo, Juan López de Uralde.

Hilario Montereo, a 68-year-old retiree, was one of the first protesters in Sol. “I am here to proclaim the Third Republic. A monarchy in the 21st century is an anachronism,” he said.

“I am here because what happened today, the abdication of King Juan Carlos, is a historical event,” added a young woman. “I am in favor of the referendum, although rather than oppose the monarchy, what I really oppose are our leaders. I know it sounds strange, but that’s the way it is.”

A large police contingent cordoned off Congress and the Royal Palace to prevent marchers from congregating there. The protest was peaceful, although analysts note that it was technically illegal, as government authorities need to be informed ahead of time when street marches are going to take place.

In Barcelona, around 5,000 people came out to Plaza de Catalunya, where the “estelada,” a striped flag with a lone star used by supporters of Catalan independence, was being waved along with the Spanish republican flag, with its three stripes in yellow, red and mulberry.

In Seville, between 2,000 and 5,000 people chanted slogans such as : “Felipe, step on the gas, the third [republic] is coming.”

In Galicia, protesters in Vigo cried out “Next eviction, La Zarzuela,” in reference to the royal residence.

In Alicante, Cristian and Ángel, two university students, said: “We want to decide, we don’t want anything imposed on us, much less an old monarchy.”

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