Barcelona saw a massive demonstration last Saturday in response to the terror attacks of 17 August.
Van and car attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils killed 16 people and injured many others. Isis claimed the attackers as its “soldiers”.
The demonstration, called hurriedly by the city council then supported by the Catalan government, was initially presented as a march for peace and solidarity.
On that basis the council invited social movements to participate actively in its preparation.
However, it emerged that the Spanish government was also hosting the march and that most of the Conservative (PP) government and Royal Family would take part.
This put things in a different light.
Following pressure by the left, especially the anti-capitalist CUP, the organisers agreed that the PP and the royals wouldn’t formally lead the march. But they would still be a significant presence at the front.
This posed a challenge for social movements and the left.
Some argued that it was not the time to raise political debates and that we should just go on the demonstration to remember the victims.
Others argued that the demonstration would inevitably reinforce the government and decided not to participate.
However the majority position was that we should try to turn the demonstration it into what it should be—in effect take it over.
There was a week of hectic activity with meetings of representatives of different social movements. These included trade unions, the Catalan independence movement, the anti-war movement and especially the anti-racist movements.
Nearly 200 such movements agreed a powerful declaration.
It denounced the role of the PP in the Iraq war—and the occupation that laid the basis for Isis. It also denounced the role of the Spanish royal family and called for broader changes in foreign and domestic policies.
Some 50,000 placards were produced in record time with slogans in favour of peace and against Islamophobia.
The demonstration was full of the colour blue, on T-shirts and banners, and the movements’ slogans such as, “Their policies, our dead”.
People shouted against Islamophobia, against the war and denounced the hypocrisy of Spain’s leaders.
Thousands of placards named and shamed prime minister Mariano Rajoy and the king for their role in the arms trade. Slogans included, “People who want peace don’t sell weapons”.
This was also the subject of a huge banner—16 metres by eight—that a block of the demo held over their heads.
The demonstration was a massive victory for social movements and a defeat for the right.