Millions march against terrorism


The demonstrations in Spain – vast seas of umbrellas in rain-soaked cities and towns – were by far the biggest the country has ever seen, easily beating the previous record set in February last year when the population protested against its government’s support of the US war on Iraq.

Anger was directed against “terrorists”. But confusion reigned over whether to blame the Basque separatist group ETA, or an Islamic group tied to al-Qaeda which had claimed responsibility in an unverifiable e-mail.

Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio ordered all Spanish ambassadors worldwide to blame ETA for the attacks, Spanish media reported today.

ETA contacted Basque media to firmly deny that it carried out the attacks, saying it was “in no way responsible”.

In Barcelona, where 1.5 million demonstrators turned out, Spain’s deputy prime minister, Rodrigo Rato, was forced to leave the march with the regional head of the ruling Popular Party after parts of the crowd turned on them, yelling “murderers, murderers”.

Several European dignitaries, including prime ministers Jean-Pierre Raffarin of France and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott as well as EU chief Romano Prodi travelled to take part in Madrid.

The staggering number of demonstrators – representing around one fifth of the country’s population of 42 million – spoke loudly of the trauma Spain is experiencing following the blasts.

US President George W Bush today laid a wreath at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Washington and said: “The Spanish people will stand firm against this type of killing and they’ll have a friend with the American people.”