Six thousand cars collapsed in the center of Madrid in the full state of alarm by COVID-19, to ask for the resignation of President Pedro Sánchez and his Ministers on May 23.
With slogans of “freedom,” “resignation,” and “Sanchez go now,” hoisted in Spanish flags and face masks, thousands of cars came out to demonstrate for the government's handling of the pandemic. Attendees asked to once again enjoy individual freedoms and a reopening of the economy to avoid turning the country into a “third world”.
The demonstration, called by the ultra-right VOX party, had to be carried out using the citizens' own vehicles in order to maintain the mandatory safety distance due to the pandemic. Still, many got out of their cars thus violating the established social distance.
The cars, with the horns honking and the flags of Spain hanging out of the windows, toured the center of the capital, in the richest and most central areas of the city. In Plaza de Colón, a convertible bus was established where the leaders of the VOX party were, such as their leader Santiago Abascal.
DEMONSTRATION, VOX BUS. LONG LIVE SPAIN. pic.twitter.com/ULafL1TcM1
– 🇪🇦Jorge🇪🇦 (@ 007Bonnw) May 23, 2020
These events have generated much controversy in the country, where on May 11 a de-escalation of the containment measures has begun, due to the danger posed by such a massive act, due to the contamination caused by the thousands of cars, the existing festive atmosphere, and the Abascal's harangues to “go out” to all Spaniards in these moments of confinement. In addition, moments of tension were generated with the assault on a La Razón journalist by some protesters and the rebuke of other RTVE colleagues.
This is what this journalist from @rtve. Not so long ago we saw similar images with other flags and we put our hands to our heads.
Who claims freedom and does not exercise it only wants to impose their model of society. pic.twitter.com/r988J8XADm
– David Holguín (@DSHolguin) May 23, 2020
The right to demonstrate is a good collected by the Constitution, however, the controversy is given by the exceptional situation in which the entire world finds itself. At the time of writing, there were 27,117 deaths from COVID-19 and 283,339 confirmed cases in Spain.
This caravan of cars has been the high point of some protests against the Government that began on May 14 in the Salamanca neighborhood, one of the areas with the most wealth and income in the capital and where more than 70% of residents voted to the right in the past general election. Since then, every day at nine o'clock at night, several citizens go out on the street or on their balconies, sounding their pots and other strident instruments to ask for the resignation of the Executive and further tightening the tense political situation.
Since Pedro Sánchez was sworn in as president on January 7, 2020 and began to form a coalition government with the left-wing United Podemos party, the Spanish right has begun to strengthen its oppositional discourse against the new government. In social networks, the ultra right is dedicated to calling the government and its members “coup-mongers”, “illegitimate”, and even “thugs”.
What is VOX?
The ultra-right VOX party was born in late 2013 but it was not until the end of 2018 that it obtained representation in the Andalusian Parliament for the first time in its history with 12 seats. In the new and last general elections of November 10, 2019, VOX obtained 52 deputies and remained as the third force in the Spanish Parliament.
The party is growing with a nationalist, racist and anti-feminist message. Some of the measures that he took in his 2019 electoral program were the illegalization of political parties that “pursue the destruction of the territorial unit of the Nation”, the deportation of illegal immigrants, excluding them from the national health system, the closure of mosques, the repeal of the gender violence law, the prohibition of abortion, or the creation of a Family Ministry to protect “the natural family”. In addition to one of his latest and most controversial measures, the so-called “parental pin”. The objective of this proposal was for parents to sign an authorization for children to attend activities or talks held in schools, thus prohibiting them from attending sexual health or diversity training.
On Twitter, there were reactions against, particularly criticizing the use of VOX of the Spanish flag instead of its green flag, which many described as a usurpation of a national symbol for partisan interests, as happened with their electoral propaganda of the 2015 where the flag appeared.
The use of the Spanish flag by Vox protesters is embarrassing, instead of their green one. They will ensure that many Spaniards, who are not from Vox, see the Spanish flag as a factional symbol of the far right (“Azor effect”) https://t.co/ipei868u8s via @expansioncom
– Manuel Conthe (@mconthe) May 23, 2020
Important people from the world of soccer, such as the former goalkeeper of the Spanish team, Pepe Reina, gave their public opinion, in this case supporting the demonstration.
– Pepe Reina (@ PReina25) May 23, 2020
But there were also critical voices noting a certain contradiction between VOX's negative position regarding the massive 8M feminist demonstration and the now holding of a similar public event.
– salfuman (@sulfatador) May 23, 2020
Also several congressmen, from the political parties Más País, Unidas Podemos, Esquerra Republicana respectively, gave their opinion on what happened, on Twitter:
The homeland is to take care of ourselves. Nothing to do with the parade of the young people's lack of solidarity. pic.twitter.com/uOpjx9UD4Y
– Íñigo Errejón (@ierrejon) May 23, 2020
Vox's “demonstration” by car blocking an ambulance from passing.
Can there be a more precise metaphor than this? pic.twitter.com/mGquRATkVw
– ᴘᴀʙʟᴏ ᴇᴄʜᴇɴɪQᴜᴇ 🇪🇸 (@pnique) May 23, 2020
Fascism is also a virus. pic.twitter.com/tOb4LQY1r3
– Gabriel Rufián (@gabrielrufian) May 23, 2020