Socialist Worker

500,000 march against 'capital and war' in Barcelona

Eyewitness report from Barcelona by Hazel Croft

Issue No. 1792

Barcelona, Saturday 16 March, 6pm. Half a million people pour onto the streets to protest 'against a Europe of capital and war'. This is even bigger than the anti-capitalist protest in Genoa last year. An endless stream of hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, students and trade unionists, pack into the Placa de Catalunya and the surrounding streets.

It is like a mass festival-joyous and celebratory. It is also political and angry. Everyone is raging at the neo-liberal, pro-market alliance of Tony Blair, Italian prime minister Berlusconi and Spanish prime minister Aznar at the European Union summit. There is a sea of home-made banners and other placards supporting the struggle of the Palestinians, against George Bush's war drive, and on a host of other issues.

Tens of thousands of trade unionists march behind their union banners. The huge size of the demo has taken everyone by surprise. The vast majority of people marching are ordinary people from Barcelona, nearly one in six of the city's population of three million. People stand on balconies, clapping and cheering on the demonstrators. A woman bangs saucepan lids together, and joins chants in solidarity with the struggle in Argentina against the bankers and the IMF.

A group of pensioners on the pavement, with tears in their eyes, shout, 'Resistancia! Resistancia!' ('Resistance!') Juan Ruiz Garcia, a 24 year old bus driver, has a home-made placard saying 'No to capitalism'. He says, 'Behind the wire fences of the conference, the politicians like Tony Blair want to privatise everything. They want more attacks on workers. United 'They want to control everything in the interests of rich businessmen and giant corporations. The people here are speaking with one voice-against their globalisation of power and money, and for social rights, workers' rights, people's rights, respect for natural resources.'

Patricia Lopez, a transport worker, has come along with her husband and two children. 'I'm proud to be here, to add my voice to those who want to bring the politicians of Europe to account,' she says. 'This is the people of Barcleona united, with one voice saying no to the fat men of capital.' Consuela, a student, is with a group of friends who have made a banner saying 'Whose world is it? It is ours'. 'We are here to protest about everything that is wrong with the world,' she says. We wanted to show that the movement is getting stronger and angrier since the terrorist attacks on 11 September and the war in Afghanistan.'

Her friend, Ana Maria, adds, 'I was in Genoa. That was massive and angry because they murdered a protester. But I feel this is better-that the movement has arrived now we are protesting in Barcelona. I never believed this could happen.' The authorities and the police have tried to scare people off the streets-but it has backfired.

The police viciously attacked peaceful anti-capitalist and student protests which took place the day before the mass demo. They ran scare stories about being prepared to fire live ammunition at demonstrators. They stopped thousands of people from France, Italy and elsewhere from crossing the border into Spain to join the demonstration.

But according to a TV opinion poll 90 percent of the population of Barcelona support the demonstration against capital and war. The clampdown has made these people even more determined to get onto the streets. But the police are still determined to attack the protest, despite the fact that it is completely peaceful and festive.

Armed riot police steam into the end of the demonstration, firing rubber bullets and teargas into whole sections of the crowd, and chasing people down the streets. But they cannot snuff out the wonderful spirit of resistance. The following day a local paper carries the headline 'Victory On The Streets'.

Next steps for the anti-capitalist movement:

Bring the spirit of Barcelona to London. Demonstrate against war criminal Henry Kissinger, Wednesday 24 April. May Day protest, Wednesday 1 May.

Porto Alegre comes to Europe -meeting of the European Social Forum, Florence, Italy, November.

For details contact Globalise Resistance-phone 020 8980 3005 or visit www.resist.org.uk


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News
Sat 23 Mar 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1792
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