Sun, Mar 14, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Spaniards gather for massive protest


Millions of Spaniards poured into the streets, chanting "Cowards!" and "Assassins!" in a protest of the bombings that killed 199 people. The Basque separatist group ETA denied government allegations that it staged the attacks.

Many of the estimated 2.3 million marchers in Madrid Friday huddled against a steady rain in a bobbing mass of umbrellas that clogged the capital's squares and the area around the Atocha station, where two of the four trains blew up during Thursday morning's rush hour.

"It is not raining. Madrid is crying," said Jorge Mendez, a 20-year-old student.

In a show of national unity, massive crowds also gathered in Barcelona, Seville, Valencia and even in Spain's Canary Islands off western Africa. More than 11 million marched nationwide, state TV said -- one-quarter of Spain's 42 million people.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who was joined by other European leaders as he led one march, pledged to hunt down the terrorists whose bombs sparked new fears about Europe's vulnerability to attack.

Friday night's massive rallies in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Valencia and other cities and towns were a remarkable show of unity in a nation divided by regional loyalties and languages.

"We all need to be here to repudiate these killings. All of us. It is our duty," said Manuel Velasco, a university professor who was drenched from the rain.

Marchers held banners reading, "No to Terror" and "Today Our Tears Reach Heaven." Another read simply, "Who and Why?"

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