CORONAVIRUS

Protestors take to Spanish streets in vehicles, at anti-government marches organized by far-right Vox

The route of the protest was brought to a standstill in Madrid, as motorists and passengers waved Spanish flags and cars honked their horns

Leaders of the far-right Vox party, including president Santiago Abascal (c), during Saturday's protest in Madrid.
Leaders of the far-right Vox party, including president Santiago Abascal (c), during Saturday's protest in Madrid.Ballesteros / EFE

Protestors across Spain took to the streets in their vehicles at 12pm Saturday, for a demonstration organized by the far-right Vox party against the Spanish government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

In Madrid, around 6,000 cars brought the streets along the route of the demonstration to a standstill, according to figures supplied by the central government’s delegation in the Spanish capital. The occupants of the vehicles waved Spanish flags and honked their horns.

The threat to the freedom of Spain is being led by an illegitimate government that has become a criminal government
Vox leader Santiago Abascal

The president of Vox, Santiago Abascal, spoke to the attendees of the demonstrations via the EsRadio network, so that protestors could hear him from their vehicles. Although the sound of car horns was so loud it was hard for anything to be heard. Abascal, along with a number of other party chiefs, was at the demonstration on top of an open-top double-decker bus parked in Plaza de Colón.

“I’m excited to talk to you, but I’m not surprised,” he said. “Spaniards always turn out at decisive moments. We are here to defend our freedom. The threat to the freedom of Spain is being led by an illegitimate government that has become a criminal government, one that is incapable of protecting its people and is directly responsible for the worst management of this crisis on the whole planet.

“Let us never forget what they have done to us,” he continued. “Have no doubt that we will take them to the courts. They know it and they are afraid of your freedom, which is why they are trying to intimidate us.”

Abascal went on to say that the coalition government, which is led by the Socialist Party (PSOE) and its junior partner Unidas Podemos, “believed it could trample on the rights of Spaniards. [...] Spain will prevail and we will get our normality back, it won’t be a new one or an old one. We will recover our hopes in the future for our children.”

The far-right leader called on protestors to respect all of the necessary health precautions, but with the streets of Madrid at a standstill due to the demonstration, many people were seen leaving their cars and failing to keep two meters apart. Municipal police officers in the area instructed protestors to put on face masks, something that this week became obligatory in Spain when social-distancing is not possible.

The general secretary of Vox, Javier Ortega Smith, also called for the government to quit on the basis that it is “criminal and treacherous.” The politician – who, like his colleague Absacal, was infected with the coronavirus in March but has since recovered – thanked the presence of thousands of what he described as “brave” Madrileños at the demonstration. “It’s thrilling to see what the center of Madrid looks like,” he said, according to news agency Servimedia.

Other cities

While Madrid was the epicenter of the protest, all provincial capitals – as well as the North African exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla – saw demonstrations.

According to the local police force, the Guardia Urbana, around 500 vehicles attended the demonstration organized by Vox in Barcelona, news agency EFE reported. The four-wheeled march began at Plaza Francesc Macià, and ended outside the central government delegation in the Catalan capital.

Meanwhile, in Seville, around 6,000 vehicles and a thousand motorbikes took part in the convoy. By 1.15pm, when the head of the demonstration reached La Barqueta bridge, the end of the route, there were still vehicles that had yet to leave the starting point, at the Betis soccer stadium.

A tweet from Vox in Córdoba claimed that protestors occupied 14 kilometers of roads in the Andalusian city. The far-right group also used its Twitter accounts from other areas of Spain to share images of vehicles full of demonstrators in the city of Valladolid, in Castilla y León, the southern city of Málaga, and Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the Balearic Islands.

The central government’s delegation in the northern Spanish region of Navarre reported that around 250 vehicles took part in the demonstration in the city of Pamplona. But at the same time an anti-fascist march took place, which attracted around 60 people. According to the delegation, the protestors split into groups in an attempt to reach the route of the Vox march, but were stopped from doing so by officers from the National Police force.

With reporting by Miguel González and Margot Molina.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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