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Why Are People Protesting in Madrid?

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

As a white British expatriate, it is a privilege to be fully accepted into the Spanish economy and culture, but this is not the case for many people. I have been photographing and documenting Black Lives Matter events in Madrid where I live, but I realised the protesters who I was photographing had the same ideals as me when they came to the country. The wave of Black Lives Matter protests may have ended and be less circulated on social media, but many of the causes still exist and need addressing.

On the 7th June hundreds of protesters met at the US embassy in Colon, and marched in solidarity to Sol Plaza, where organisers read moving speeches of change and support. It was peaceful and transformative, and gave space for other movements to share their wants for change. Signs were held to spread messages of peace, equality, against police brutality, diversity, defunding the judicial system, messages in solidarity with George Floyd and the other names of victims of racial injustice in America, and many other statements. On the 19th of June, another protest occurred to show support of Juneteenth, the day that the last remaining enslaved African Americans were emancipated in the US in 1865. This protest was smaller but well attended, as mostly made up of American citizens. This was the first time I had heard of this event and so I was glad to become aware of it.

Juneteenth protest in Sol. The sign shown translates to ‘To Be Poor.’

One of the main and groups protesting currently is ‘Regualizacion ya!’ , a movement who stand for ‘Urgent demand for the permanent and unconditional regularisation of all migrants and refugees in the face of the health emergency.’ The group confronts Spanish laws on migrant rights, as the government refuses to give them papers as immigrants, meaning they have no rights and are easily exploited for labour. This has been described as ‘modern slavery’, as they cannot afford to leave but cannot act to change their status. Especially in the time of the pandemic, being unable to utilise everyday rights like healthcare, living rights and education is even more crucial, so now is the time to change this.

Madrid is a city with the second highest unemployment rate in Europe at 13.6% in February (according to Eurostat), which will only have been exacerbated after the pandemic putting even greater pressures on the future for poorer areas in the city. Locales stated that ‘Madrid is the most segregated city in Europe’, which exemplifies the wealth divide. The group is fast growing and continues to address this huge, infrastructural and racist problem. They protested again on the 12th July and the 19th July, and you can follow here for further news and updates.

Below are my images from the Black Lives Matter protest in June.

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