Amid rising coronavirus cases, around 2,500 people protest in Madrid against the use of face masks

The attendees, many of whom were breaking the law by not using the obligatory face coverings, cited a number of conspiracy theories about the pandemic

Protestors at Sunday's demonstration in Madrid.
David Expósito
Lucía Franco

In the midst of a rise in coronavirus cases across Spain, and with the pandemic far from under control, between 2,500 and 3,000 protestors took to Madrid’s Plaza de Colón on Sunday, according to central government delegation sources, to protest the obligatory use of face masks. The demonstration, which had been organized via social media and had been promoted by public figures such as Spanish singer Miguel Bosé, saw attendees sign a manifesto “against the false pandemic,” in which they threw into doubt the measures taken by Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the accuracy of PCR tests to detect the virus, and denied that asymptomatic carriers of SARS-CoV-2 are able to transmit it to other people.

For several hours, the demonstrators took to the square with chants of: “We want to see the virus,” “We are not afraid,” and “What kills is 5G,” the latter in reference to a conspiracy theory linking the latest high-speed cellphone technology to the coronavirus.

To be healthy we have to live. We can’t live like zombies with masks on in the streets
Poet and photographer Ouka Leele

The anti-vaccination campaigner and farmer Josep Pàmies was present at the event, and encouraged those present to convince others in their neighborhoods or towns that they should not be worried about the the coronavirus. Also present was poet and photographer Ouka Leele, who invited demonstrators to not be afraid of the virus and to breathe. “To be healthy we have to live,” she said. “We can’t live like zombies with masks on in the streets.”

The organizers were seeking to bring together a million people and called on demonstrators to use their masks as banners. But neither objective was met, with the number of protestors well below that target and most of those present opting not to wear their masks and thus break the law. “We can’t deal with all of the people who are not wearing masks, but normally we would fine them,” explained a police officer who was in the area.

“We are not denying that the virus exists, but just the measures that have been taken to deal with it,” said Pablo Rivero, 58, who came from Navarre in northern Spain to attend the demonstration. “The number of deaths that we’ve had doesn’t justify the country’s economy being stopped.” Next to him, Carmen López said that she had come to Colón to protest because she didn’t want her two children, who were with her, to grow up with the fear of a lie created by the government.

For 8,000 old folk who have died, the economy of a country has stopped
Carmen Polo, from Stop Confinamiento España

While many of the protestors wore t-shirts with references to Miguel Bosé, the singer was not present at the demonstration. The Spanish artist began his crusade against the coronavirus back in June when, in a long thread published on Twitter, he referred to the conspiracy theories that claim that the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, is part of a plan promoted by billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates who wants to take advantage of the “false” coronavirus pandemic to implant a microchip in the population via an equally fraudulent vaccination, in a bid to control the population of the planet. All of this with the help of 5G, a technology that, experts insist, has no effect on human beings.

“For 8,000 old folk who have died, the economy of a country has stopped,” shouted on Sunday Carmen Polo, from Stop Confinamiento España, one of the groups that organized the protest against the obligatory use of masks in Madrid, a city that, according to official figures, has seen 75,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 8,451 victims.

On Monday, the central government’s delegate in Madrid, José Manuel Franco, said that the failure to use masks at Sunday’s demonstration would have consequences. “There are always a few brainless people, in this case quite a few, who, unfortunately, do not comply with the law,” he said today during an interview with Spanish radio network Cadena SER. “I want to make it clear that this will be punished with the full force allowed by law.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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