Anti-ETA March Becomes Anti-Government Protest

AVT March Against ETA
AVT March passes through Génova. Photo by Cristóbal Manuel.

Anti-ETA March Becomes Anti-Government Protest
Rajoy did not attend the demonstration strewn with important officials of the Popular Party. About 19,000 people answer the calls of the victims’ associations.
El País: La marcha contra ETA se convierte en un acto de protesta al Gobierno
C.E. Cué and A. Muñoz reporting from Madrid, April 9, 2011

Chants of “Zapatero, Resign!” rang out as about 19,000 people, according to El País‘s estimate, participated in a demonstration organized by the Association of the Victims of Terrorism (AVT) which transformed into a clear act of protest against the government. The march, which began a little later than 5 in the afternoon at the Bilbao Roundabout, ended in the Plaza Colón with a call for the government to keep ETA from participating in any way in the upcoming local elections.

Although the Popular Party supported the march, called under the banner “Defeat Terrorism: Keep ETA Out of the Elections,” party leader Mariano Rajoy and ex-president José María Aznar were notably absent, not even at the beginning of the demonstration. A good portion of the pinnacle of the party came – Dolores de Cospedal, Esteban González Pons, Antonio Basagoiti, Ignacio González, Jaime Mayor, and Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardón – making it more unusual that Rajoy didn’t, although he used the excuse of his agenda.

At least at the front of the parade line, there were never chants against the terrorist band such as “ETA no,” habitual in previous demonstrations, only cries against the government. The most successful were Zapatero dimisión (“Zapatero, Resign!”) Rubalcaba a prisión “Rubacalba to prison!” and 11-M, queremos saber What happened on March 11 [2004]?” These words were absolutely contradictory to Rajoy’s message in recent weeks that the PP, and he in particular, support the government “because it’s doing a good job” and because the Supreme Court, thanks to information from the public prosecutor’s office and the Civil Guard, has blocked the legalization of Sortu.

The PP through official Federico Trillo, present at the demonstration, has supported Vice President Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, with whom he maintains frequent conversations about his work in the fight against terrorism and insists it is not thinking of breaking the union against the terrorists. Yet all the words that were hurled near the front were contrary to that. Completing the contradiction, immediately behind Trillo there was an enormous placard which said ZP = a Eta.

Some PP sympathizers took the opportunity to distribute pamphlets against the government calling for people to vote for the PP. Some protestors confirmed that they’d gone to protest a government “which owes a lot to ETA because it gave them the elections after March 11,” while others participated to show solidarity with the victims.

The president of the Association of Victims of Terrorism, Angeles Pedraza, agreed that the absence of the Socialist Party looked “very bad” for a victims’ demonstration called under a slogan “as impeccable” as “Defeat Terrorism,” which all Spaniards should support, according to an Efe report. In his statements to the media at the beginning of the march in Madrid, Pedraza assured that no member of the government had directed the organization, and he praised the unity of victims: this was the first time 42 such associations and collectives came together for an event.

In his closing speech at Colón, Pedraza said he doesn’t put any weight in Rubalcaba’s remark that he will check the [newly created] Bildu Party roster one by one to make sure it doesn’t have any terrorists, because “the law is clear that if ETA creates a new party like Sortu, that party is illegal; if ETA forms a coalition like Bildu, that coalition is illegal…if ETA uses another party as a front, whether it’s called EA or something else, that party would be illegal.”

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