More than 30,000 people congregated at the Plaza de Cibeles in front of Madrid’s City Hall on Saturday to protest Spain’s socialist government led by Pedro Sánchez.
The rally, organized by dozens of conservative action groups and endorsed by Spain’s center-right People’s Party and conservative Vox party, accused Sánchez’s left-wing coalition government of undermining the country’s constitution.
Sánchez’s administration has been criticized for abolishing the crime of sedition and pardoning nine Catalan separatist leaders for their involvement in the region’s failed independence bid back in 2017.
Conservatives have also accused the government of being soft on rapists in relation to its ‘Only yes means yes’ law introduced last year, which reformed sexual assault laws in the country and amended the definition of consent. A by-product of the legislation has seen the reduction of sentences or the early release of 244 convicted rapists across the country.
Vox party leader Santiago Abascal told reporters the country was being subjected to the “the worst government in history,” claiming Sánchez “has divided Spaniards and freed rapists and coup leaders.”
Outside the city hall, scores of protesters could be seen waving Spanish flags and holding placards depicting the incumbent prime minister with the term “traitor.” Shouts of “murderers” were also heard, according to the EFE news agency.
Absacal told his supporters on Saturday: “There is a Spain far removed from electoral calculations and the pettiness of politics. There are millions of Spaniards fed up with the autocrat and his henchmen. We have to be with them. We have to know how to represent them.”
Vox Vice President Javier Ortega Smith tweeted during the protest: “There are many more of us who love Spain and want to see it free and sovereign, and we will demonstrate it in the streets, at the polls, and in the institutions.”
Alberto Nunez Feijoo, leader of the center-right People’s Party, which is widely tipped to become the largest party in the Spanish parliament at the next election, did not attend the rally but encouraged party members to participate.
While local government estimates suggest 30,000 people attended the rally, organizers believe the true figure was closer to 70,000.
At an event in the Spanish city of Valladolid on Saturday, Sánchez told his own supporters that the protesters in Madrid were defending racism, according to the Reuters news agency.
Spanish local elections are due to be held on May 28, while the next general election is expected to take place on Dec. 10.