Saturday, March 13, 2004

Voting with their Feet

Despite the tropical rainfall every man, woman and child took to the streets of Madrid to express their sympathy for the victims, and say a unified NO to Terrorism. Due to begin at 7 pm, the streets were already full two hours earlier. I have often joked of the Spanish fear of rain but last night was the great exception. Completely soaked to the bone, the city was determined to stick it out until the very end.

The March proceeded from Plaza Colon, along the main Madrid Boulevards and finished at Atocha, the zone of the worst bombing. I have never before seen so many people in one place. It was impossible to move or meet with friends and so I, like many others, just moved alone with the crowd.

This was a very different demonstration to the Anti War protest of last year year . While emotions at that time were running very high at the arrogance of the government war position, it still managed to turn into a carnival atmosphere, with costumes, drums and laughing. Last night however was certainly not all that. The crowds chanted slogans against ETA and Terrorism, but at the back of every persons mind were the horrific events which gave rise to this protest. There was a very mournful tone to the evening, with people carrying candles and others wearing t-shirts bearing the words, "I lost 196 friends".

There are some who may have benefitted from the activities of last night. For two days citizens could not bear being so impotent in the face of the unfolding events and rising death toll. They could only sit on the sidelines and watch the situation worsen beyond belief. This march was the first time that they could feel as if they were actually doing something worthwhile, making themselves heard and also unknown to themselves, taking their first step on the long road to recovery and desired normality.

After the evenings events, a crowd gathered in my flat to dry off, get warm and watch the news. I watched them grow very angry as the cameras showed the Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar and the Royal Prince, flanked by their cronies, lead the march. These are the very men who refused to ackowledge the same two million Madrid citizens, who last year took to the streets in objection to Aznars baffling war stance. Last night he had the cheek to jump on the wave of anger and sadness, amongst the very souls he had treated with disdain less than a year ago. Conveniently public sentiment now actually means something to him.

This all becomes very relevant as the evidence points more and more to Al Qaeda involvement, which of course the government will never admit at this side of the election . If it does turn out that Al Qaeda are responsible, the blood is also on the hands of Jose Maria Aznar. It is he who put Spanish lives at danger. No he did not cower away from the so called fight against international terrorism, and in doing so he negligently sacrificed 196 other innocents in the process.

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