Several thousand people -2,200 according to the Government Delegation and 30,000 according to the organization- from a long dozen different left-wing groups have paraded through Madrid this afternoon to protest against NATO, on the eve of the Atlantic alliance summit in the Spanish capital . Under the motto ‘No to wars. Not NATO. For peace’, the procession traveled the route between Atocha and Plaza de España recovering the chants of the demonstrations of the 80s against the military organization, as “bases out”, without incidents.
Promoted by Desarma Madrid, an anti-militarist platform in which groups ranging from Ecologists in Action to the group of older Yayoflautas participate, the march was attended by the United Left and the Communist Party, in addition to various formations to the left of the PCE. No one from the Podemos leadership has come. Groups from different parts of Spain joined the protest, such as the association Catalunya vol pau or the Galician Platform against NATO, with the participation of the BNG deputy in Congress, Néstor Rego. The different groups paraded in the same direction, but keeping a certain distance between them at some points, with independent sound and public address systems.
The cry of “NATO no, bases out” was the most popular. For Concha de la Torre and Charo Rosales, 66 and 68 years old, respectively, the slogan evoked memories of their youth. “We were in those, how could we not be now. In addition, it is a wonderful opportunity because all the leaders are here”, said Concha in reference to the meeting of the Atlantic alliance next week. “More weapons from my taxes, I don’t feel like it,” Charo protested. The historical connection between the citizen mobilizations against the war was also remembered by Emilio Díaz, 86, dressed in a yellow vest from the groups in defense of pensions and a cap with the slogan no to war from almost two decades ago, when US bombing in Iraq. “Since it is in the interests of selling weapons, wars are staged, one follows another,” he pointed out, adding: “Wars are an industry that harms all of humanity.” Of the conflict in Ukraine, he pointed out that it had been “forging and orchestrating” since before the Russian invasion.
The international nature of the NATO summit was reflected in the demonstration in the presence of groups from various countries, even with a testimonial character. There was a representation of the Greek KKE, an orthodox communist, and the very minority South Korean DPD, also a communist, as well as the organization of Belgian origin Intal, whose young militants sang in English.
The absence of youth that has been attributed to some anti-war demonstrations in recent times was not such in today’s, with the presence of numerous faces without wrinkles. Alejandro T, 29 years old and a CGT member, gave his opinion as the march passed through the Cibeles roundabout: “NATO did not make any sense, neither when it entered nor now. It is an organization that serves the interests of the United States and in which Europe lags behind, ”he criticized. Regarding the more than calm nature of the march and the notable police presence, he lamented that the security forces “sold the idea that it was going to be very problematic.”
Riot police without a helmet and 15 police vans at the head
The police presence was, in effect. very noticeable. As many as 15 national police vans preceded the protesters, with numerous riot police patrolling the flanks. As the peaceful tone of those present was evident, they immediately received notice to put on the regulation cap and carry the helmet hanging from the arm. The demonstration, in fact, was almost festive at times, with ska music playing through the loudspeakers of the main van or Javier Krahe’s ‘Ingenuous Raven’, another eighties reference, about the changes in position of Felipe González’s PSOE regarding the military alliance.
“Military spending for schools and hospitals,” the attendees cried. “Out of Rota, out of Morón”, a megaphone sounded. Advocates of the argument that criticizing NATO is siding with Russia in the Ukraine war found no echo in the march, where explicit references to sides were minimal. Perhaps some message written in pen on cardboard that criticized the Nazi whims of the Ukrainian Azov battalion, accompanied by others explicitly equidistant: “Neither NATO, nor Putin.”
Along with the criticism of NATO, other protest issues were filtered, such as the recent deaths of migrants at the Melilla fence or the struggles of the landless in Brazil or South Africa, of indigenous groups in Latin America or of pro-Palestinian groups against the Israeli occupation. The demonstration concluded at the end of the Gran Vía, before entering the Plaza de España without, as usual, the constant flow of tourists being particularly disturbed.