Protests Rock Madrid During Government Standoff

Written By: Emma Carroll

MADRID, SPAIN – 2020/08/16: People holding placards and shouting slogans without wearing face masks protesting during a demonstration against the mandatory use of face masks and other measures adopted by the Spanish government to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Spain as COVID-19 positive cases are increasing. (Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Madrid Premier, Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the Madrid region in Spain, has placed 850,000 people living in the poorest parts of the city and surrounding areas in partial lockdown. The groups that organized the protests accused the government of further picking on marginalized communities. Amid rising cases and a polarizing political climate, residents are calling for the government to step up for the citizens.

Spanish Prime Ministers Pedro Sánchez and Ayuso met together on Sept.21,  to coordinate measures against the spread of the coronavirus. With protests rocking the Madrid region amid the rising numbers of cases, this meeting was a friendly spot amidst the intense negotiations in the past weeks,  Ayuso has been an extremely vocal critic of the Sánchez administration, claiming that the central government was not letting regional authorities regulate the health crisis properly. The restrictions following a spike in cases over the summer has spurred protests all over the city, claiming discrimination against immigrants and lower-income areas as well as mismanagement of resources. 

These measures were put in place on Sept.  21, and this partial lockdown has confined residents to their neighborhoods, only allowing them to leave for work, school or health reasons. Parks in the areas are closed and restaurants close at 10 p.m., which is early for a country with a tradition of eating late. These new restrictions from the regional government have spurred many residents to protest on the grounds of discrimination. The areas under the new restrictions are low-income areas. Madrid is the epicenter of a second wave in Spain, with a third of the continent’s 716,481 cases located in the country. Spain’s national health minister, Salvador Illa, is calling for a city-wide lockdown; however, Ayuso is refusing to implement the lockdown due to fear of economic fallout. This has led to protests all over the city, with the largest taking place outside of the regional parliament. Other protests took place in the districts of Villaverde Bajo, Villaverde Alto, Puente de Vallecas, Villa de Vallecas, Carabanchel Alto, Carabanchel Bajo, Arganzuela and Ciudad Lineal-San Blas, as well as the municipalities of Getafe, Parla, Fuenlabrada, Alcobendas, and San Sebastián de los Reyes.

The healthcare system in Spain is on the verge of overload, with 40.12% of ICU beds being occupied by coronavirus patients. In addition, the public transportation is overwhelmed with those who cannot work from home. Spain has carried out more than 8.5 million coronavirus tests, which may result in larger case numbers. The death rate has dropped from six months ago, with 849 deaths in a single day. But numbers are slowly climbing with 479 deaths reported in a week. Protests from before the lockdown against masks and Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez have continued as well as the lockdown protests. So far, the protests show no sign of slowing down and it is too soon to see if the lockdown will have reduced the spread of the coronavirus. As Spain and the rest of Europe face their second spike, they will look to early examples of removing restrictions on residents.

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