Thousands take to Madrid streets to protest against racism

What began as a demonstration outside the US embassy in the wake of the death of George Floyd turned into a march that finished in the Puerta del Sol square

Dvd 1003 07.06.20 Manifestación frente a la embajada de EEUU por la muerte de George Floyd, contra el racismo. foto: santi burgos
Dvd 1003 07.06.20 Manifestación frente a la embajada de EEUU por la muerte de George Floyd, contra el racismo. foto: santi burgosEL PAÍS

Yasmin de la Cruz was born in Berlin. She’s the daughter of Dominicans and lives in Madrid. She’s a model, and the mother of two children, and this morning she joined thousands of people at an anti-racism march that had been called to start at 11am outside the United States embassy in the Spanish capital, as part of the global wave of protests that have sprung up since the alleged homicide of George Floyd, who died after a police officer in Minneapolis held him on the ground with his knee for nearly 10 minutes on May 25. What was due to be a demonstration in Serrano street in Madrid, turned into a march that ran through the center of the city on Sunday.

Half-an-hour after the protest began on Sunday, De la Cruz “felt compelled” to join her friend, Francis Rojas, face down on the ground, from where they shouted “I can’t breathe” louder and louder, echoing the phrase that Floyd was heard to say while being pinned down by the police officer in question, and which has now become one of the slogans of the demonstrations. They were surrounded by a circle of other protestors while the youngster shouted “We are one!”

I felt the oppression that George Floyd must have felt
Yasmin de la Cruz

De la Cruz got up from the floor with tears in her eyes, and a number of protesters approached her to take a selfie. “I felt the oppression that George must have felt,” the youngster said afterwards. “It really hurt me. God knows we don’t deserve this.”

This protestor’s fellow students at a Madrid high school on one occasion set fire to a lock of her hair, which is short and very curly. “I was traumatized,” she said. “It made me feel like I didn’t fit in. Now I want to love myself as I am: my race, my culture, my eyes and my skin. And I want to know other races that I don’t yet know and that I love,” she added, explaining that every time she goes into a store, the staff check her purse. “When they see I haven’t stolen anything they apologize to me,” she said.

Thousands of people attended today’s anti-racism demonstration in Madrid, which had been organized by a number of associations including student unions and the Black, African and Afro-descendant Community in Spain (CNAAE). The protest took place with a large police presence, and moved from the embassy to the central Puerta del Sol square. The central government’s delegation in Madrid had authorized the protest, with a limit of 200 people and on the basis that social distancing was observed, but the two-meter limits aimed at avoiding the spread of the coronavirus were impossible to observe given that the crowds greatly exceeded the stipulated limits.

When the march reached Madrid’s Colón square, Coral Latorre, from the Students’ Union, grabbed a megaphone and began to make an improvised speech. “We are here to unite with the brothers and sisters from the United States, to point out the racists,” she shouted. “Donald Trump. Santiago Abascal,” she continued, in reference, respectively, to the American president and the leader of Spain’s far-right Vox party, which has held a number of protests in Colón square in the past.

Also audible were cries of “Madrid will be the tomb of racism,” a slogan that has echoes of a Spanish Civil War slogan against fascism

“No human being is illegal,” and “Here are the anti-fascists,” were among the most-shouted slogans by the protestors, as well as several referring specifically to Spain: “The immigration law kills people every day” was heard, as well as “CIEs no,” the latter in reference to the country’s controversial migrant holding centers.

Also audible were cries of “Madrid will be the tomb of racism,” a slogan that has echoes of a Spanish Civil War slogan against fascism. On arrival at the Puerta del Sol, at around 1.30pm, demonstrators were encouraged by the organizers to chant the popular slogan from the United States of: “No justice, no peace.”

Once in the square, the spokespersons from the demonstration read a manifesto detailing the specific reasons for protest in Spain. “It’s easy to link the death of George Floyd with the deaths in the Mediterranean of 14 people in El Tarajal,” they said, in reference to a number of would-be migrants who died while trying to swim to Spain’s North African exclave city of Ceuta in 2014. The organizers also made reference to the killing of Lucrecia Pérez, who is considered to be the first victim of a racist crime in Spain, and Mame Mbaye, a Senegalese street vendor who died in 2018 trying to flee the police. The demonstrators ended the protest by taking a knee and raising their fists in the air.

Barcelona protests

According to local police, around 3,000 people also demonstrated in Barcelona on Sunday morning against racism and to honor the memory of George Floyd. The protestors braved the rain that was falling in the Catalan capital, and assembled in Sant Jaume square.

As in Madrid, it was difficult for the attendees to respect social distancing measures at times, although many were wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus contagion.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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