Saturday, March 13, 2004

The vigil

Went to the anti-terrorism demo last night. It was massive; I think extra trains had been laid on but even so the train in was packed solid.

The Placa Catalunya was seething. I don't know how many people turned out to show their grief, their solidarity, their defiance, but there must have been tens, maybe hundreds of thousands. Mostly they were ordinary people, the kind of people who wouldn't normally demonstrate: there were far more salon perms than bleached dreds, more short-back-and-sides than pink fauxhawks. People painted their faces with peace signs, slogans, and loops to represent the little twist of black ribbon that has come to symbolise mourning here. That same image was repeated everywhere: real ribbons and painted; printed and photocopied, stuck on walls, windows, doors, coats, and bags.

Home-made banners were brandished above the heads of the crowd. Some of the slogans seemed inspired by the rumours of Islamic terrorism, attacking Bush, Blair and Aznar for provoking the bombings. Mostly though, it was peace that people were thinking of. PAU! PAZ! Terrorism No! ETA NO! said the signs; We won't forget you, Madrid. No more bombs. No more deaths. They flung their white-painted hands* in the air, or clutched votive candles that cast flickering shadows on painted faces.

There was some chanting: "ETA no! ETA no!" and "Hijo de puta!" (son of a whore). Mostly, though, people were subdued, talking quietly amongst themselves or calling to friends in the crowd. There was sorrow in the air, and anger, and fear, but also a kind of grave joy in their unity. Here in Barcelona and all across Spain, millions of people are turning out to say the same thing: We don't want your bombs. What we want is peace.

*"Manos blancos, " a symbol of peace and defiance against ETA and the name of a Spanish peace organisation.

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