About fifty Madrid-based associations and collectives have voiced their support for Saturday’s demonstration, which will kick off at 6 pm in the Spanish capital to protest the trial of the Catalan political prisoners and demand Catalonia’s right to self-determination. The march will start at the Atocha train station and will end at Plaza de Cibeles, where a political rally will be held.
Elena Ortega, whose son Alfon was jailed following the 2012 general strike in Spain, said that “we must stand up for the right to decide, we demand the release of the political prisoners and the safe return of the Catalan exiles, the end of the repression and the persecution against the Catalan people”. She spoke, among others, on behalf of the Madrid groups that held a press conference this morning in Teatro del Barrio, in Madrid’s Lavapiés neighbourhood, to give details about Saturday’s demonstration, which they hope will be massively attended.
The event garnered considerable media attention, with many attending Spanish and Catalan reporters and representatives of the associations that endorsed it. Hundreds of buses have been chartered to drive people to the Madrid march, the vast majority from Catalonia. Catalan National Assembly sources have put the number at 380, but they know that many more will be travelling from other places in Spain, such as the Basque Country, Andalusia and Galicia.
They prefer civil society to take point and that is why no political leaders will lead the march. The slogan of the demonstration will be “There is no democracy without the right to decide. Self-determination is not a crime”. So far no political leaders from Podemos and Izquierda Unida have endorsed the event, but the organisers claim that many sympathisers of those political parties will be demonstrating next Saturday in Paseo del Prado.
“There is a different side to Madrid”
Jaime Pastor is a political science professor at Spain’s Open University and a member of Madrileñ@s por el Derecho a Decidir (Citizens of Madrid for the Right to Decide). Regarded as a key intellectual by the Spanish left, Pastor slammed the trial of the Catalan leaders: “Over two million people who exercised their legitimate right to peaceful disobedience against the police violence are sitting in the dock. We, too, want to be a part of this disobedience movement. Freedom and basic rights, including the right to political participation, are being put on trial. There is another Madrid, one that is very different from the reactionary bloc [that recently staged a demo in the city] demanding a tougher crackdown on the Catalan people”.
Elena Martínez, a spokesperson for Izquierda Castellana (Castilian Left) said that “the demonstration will have great political repercussions and will receive widespread support from the people of Madrid, with a republican, anti-repressive sentiment, in support of dialogue and against any authoritarian regression. There is no democracy without the right to decide. We will not be an accessory to the repression against a fellow people, the Catalans, and we demand freedom for the political prisoners and exiles. This is a question of democracy, our democracy.” And she went on to say that “Today it’s our turn to say that defending Catalonia is defending Madrid, to stand up for our rights and liberties. The most basic rights and freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, assembly and demonstration, are being put on trial. We are all sitting in the dock”.