Huge Anti-NATO Protest Held in Spain
Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched through Madrid on Sunday to demand Spain’s withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. A referendum will be held next month on the issue, the first time within the alliance that the question of membership has been put to a popular vote.
Protesters, in a reference to the four U.S. bases in Spain, chanted “Bases out, NATO no!” and carried effigies of President Reagan for nearly two miles through Madrid to Columbus Square in the center of the city.
Police and organizers of the demonstration estimated the crowd at 750,000, which would be the largest protest since the anti-NATO movement began in Spain in 1980. The government estimated the turnout at 120,000.
Helicopters hovered above the protesters and police clad in riot gear stood watch. There were no reports of injuries or arrests.
Demonstrators danced and sang anti-NATO slogans as Spanish Galicians blew on bagpipes, anarchists from Catalonia staged mock military marches and thousands of Andalusian farm workers banged on drums.
More than 150 pacifist, ecologist and leftist political groups that organized the demonstration said 25,000 people from around the country had converged on Madrid for the protest.
Public opinion polls published Sunday showed that the ruling Socialist Party’s campaign for continued Spanish membership in NATO is gaining ground but that anti-alliance sentiment is still dominant.
But with the ruling Socialists campaigning to retain membership and the pro-NATO right boycotting the March 12 vote, the anti-NATO challenge has been outspent and outnumbered.
A handful of organizers with about $200,000 provided mainly by the Communist Party is going up against the powerful Socialist Party, which has budgeted 20 times more for its pro-NATO campaign.
The anti-NATO faction is not discouraged, however. “If the referendum were held now, we would win it,” Communist Party spokesman Andreu Claret said. “We will win with the arguments the Socialists used against entry in 1982.”