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Millions at Spanish Anti-Terrorist Demonstrations Set Record - 2004-03-13


Millions of people have inundated the streets of the Spain's major cities to protest the country's worst ever terrorist attack which on Thursday killed 200 people and injured more than 1,000 in Madrid. Never before have so many people taken to the streets in protest against terrorism.

Despite cold and rainy weather as many as eight million people in Madrid, Barcelona, and other major cities answered a call by Prime Minister Jose María Aznar to protest the terrorist bomb attacks against four commuter trains in Spain's capital.

The main demonstration took place in Madrid. Heading the huge crowd of angry, whistling and chanting people was Crown Prince Felipe, his sisters the Infantas Elena and Cristina, the Prime Ministers of Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. German and Moroccan foreign ministers, and the leaders of the main Spanish opposition parties also took part in the demonstration.

It was the first time members of the Spanish royal family had ever participated in a demonstration. Marching in the rain without umbrellas they bore an oblong banner bearing the motto of the demonstration: With the victims, with the Constitution, and for the defeat of Terrorism.

Meanwhile, the people around them whistled and chanted slogans such as "It's not raining, Madrid is crying" or "We were all on that train."

People began gathering for the demonstration, called for seven in the evening, more than two hours beforehand. All the boulevards converging on the main demonstration route from Plaza Colon past the Prado Museum to Atocha station, where one of the trains blew up, were clogged with umbrella-bearing throngs. Highways leading into the city collapsed into massive jams and thousands were trapped in congested public transportation as they tried to approach the city center.

It was the biggest demonstration ever for a city that has seen many massive demonstrations to protest previous terrorist killings.

Official sources placed the turn out in Madrid at more than two million and in Barcelona more than a million with several million more demonstrating in Spain's other major cities breaking all previous records for demonstrations.

The prime suspect Basque separatist group ETA denied government allegations that it staged the attacks. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has assured his fellow citizens that Spain will pursue every lead in the hunt for those responsible for the bombings.

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