Spain: Hundreds of people demonstrate against institutional racism in Madrid


On Sunday 11 November hundreds of people demonstrated in Madrid to protest against "institutional violence" and the "racist structures of the state".

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The demonstrators were there in support of, amongst others, the Moroccan agricultural workers of Huelva, who have denounced labour and sexual abuses; and to remember those like Manuel Fernández Jiménez, a young gitano [Roma], who died in the prison of Albocàsser, in Castellón and Mame Mbaye, a mantero [street trader], who died in the Madrid neighbourhood of Lavapiés. [1]

It was the second state-wide demonstration of non-white persons that has taken place in Spain. [2] This year, the objective was to denounce racism as a structural issue. The raids, the 'hot returns' [3] and the migrant detention centres [Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros, CIEs] are part of the "racist structures of the state," as Paula Guerra, president of SOS Racismo Madrid, put it to the website

Alongside the organising collectives, which included Mapa 12N, SOS Racismo Madrid, Asociación Feminista Antirracista (AFA), and the Movimiento Moro Antirracista, some 40 other organisations were involved. There were also protests and actions in Barcelona, Zaragoza, Bilbao and Valencia. For Guerra this union has a lesson: "We are becoming a political subject."

The march began from the Plaza de Cibeles and ended up in Puerta del Sol two hours later. Diallo, a 20-year old who moved to Spain from Ceuta last year, was there at the start of the march: "I've come because I was to show to the people what the politicians are doing with the migrants and refugees," he explained to He came to his first march to protest against the politics of the European Union.

The march also featured numerous Roma flags. Beyond policies such as the Foreigners' Law (Ley de Extranjería), Cayetano Fernández, of the Kale Amenge collective, spoke with about all the other discrimination faced by the Roma in Spain, ranging from "ghettoisation" in neighbourhoods like the 'Tres Mil Viviendas' [4] to discrimination in schools, where not only are the cultural contributions of the Roma people ignored, but "genocide is celebrated".

Fernández gave an example: "They speak of the Marquis of the Ensenada as a great moderniser of Spain, who brought enlightened ideas to Spain, but they omit the genocide that he perpetrated against the Roma. They separated all the children older than seven from their mothers," he recalls. [5] One of the consequences of discrimination at all levels is on health: "The Roma live shorter lives than average in Spanish society."

The demonstration took place without incidents. There were chants such as "against racism and its violence, now and forever, resistance" (contra el racismo y su violencia, ahora y siempre, resistencia) and "detention centres, raids, fences and borders, this is how European wealth is hoarded" (CIE, redadas, vallas y fronteras, así se construye la riquieza europea).

Amongst the attendees there were also some politicians, such as the Podemos deputy Rita Bosaho and Carlos Sánchez Mato, of Izquierda Unida.


Sara Montero, 'Cientos de personas se manifiestan contra el racismo institucional en Madrid',, 12 November 2018. Edited translation by Statewatch.


[1] "On March 15th, around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, our brother, friend, and colleague, Mame Mbaye Ndiaye, passed away. The incident took place on Calle Oso, Lavapiés, after a racist raid that was followed by a pursuit... Mame Mbaye and a colleague had managed to reach Lavapiés where he then collapsed. His colleague tried to help him when he fell, but the police impeded him from doing so, with the excuse that they should wait for paramedics. Aid was possible, but yet the forces of the State decided to wait, facilitating his death. This incident is clearly a crime supported by the Ley de Extranjería (Spanish Law of Immigration), a law that kills, tortures and humiliates us both on the street and in the CIEs (Detention Centre for Illegal Migrants). A law that excludes us from society in such a way that prevents us from being able to exercise basic rights such as the right to work, health care, and fair legal representation. We find ourselves before the crime of a system of borders — a crime of state-sanctioned violence." See: Association of Senagalese Immigrants in Spain (AISE), 'Madrid, Lavapies: Statement Following the Death of Mame Mbaye Ndiaye', Enough is Enough!, 18 March 2018

[2] The first march took place on 12 November 2017 and like this year's march was organised by migrants and 'racialised' persons (to use the preferred Spanish terminology).

[3] Hot returns or devoluciones en caliente are summary deportations from Ceuta and Melilla to Morocco. The practice was found illegal by the European Court of Human Rights in the case N.D. and N.T. vs Spain, but the practice continues.

[4] 'Las Tres Mil Viviendas' or 'las 3,000 Viviendas' is a poor neighbourhood in Seville.

[5] This event took place between 30-31 July 1749 and is known as the 'Great Raid'. It has been described as a project of "extermination" by the historian Manuel Martínez Martínez. The operation involved the army, in cooperation with local forces of public order, attempting to arrest the entire Roma population of Spain (Martínez estimates that some 9,000 people were detained). All males aged seven or above were to be sent to undertake forced labour in the navy's arsenals and all females and any children younger than seven years old were to be imprisoned or forced to work in factories. The purpose of separating men and women was to try to prevent any further children being born, thus eliminating Spain's Roma population. In 1763 the monarch Carlos III signed an order ending the detention and forced labour of Roma, but it did not come into effect until 1765. The last Roma still working in forced labour were put at liberty in March 1767, almost 18 years after the raid.

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