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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 May 2018

Spain: 'We don't want to be brave, we want to be free!'

Thousands marched throughout the Spanish state against the light treatment of rapists, photo by Sindicato de Estudiantes

Thousands marched throughout the Spanish state against the light treatment of rapists, photo by Sindicato de Estudiantes   (Click to enlarge)

Beth Webster, Cardiff West Socialist Party, eyewitness report from Spain

Protests rocked Spain on 26 April and for a further two days following the sentencing of 'La Manada' - five men accused of raping an 18-year-old woman during the Pamplona bull-running festival in 2016.

The men were cleared of rape and instead convicted of the lesser crime of sexual abuse (which in Spain means 'absence of violence'). The trial has provoked widespread anger for its treatment of the victim, similar in its intimidation and shaming techniques to countless other rape trials worldwide. Defence lawyers used footage the men took of the attack, which showed the victim not actively struggling, as tacit proof of consent.

62 cities were flooded by protesters within hours of the sentencing. In Barcelona 30,000 marched. In Valencia over 5,000 demonstrators chanted: "This was not abuse, it was rape!", along with the names of women killed fighting their rapists in recent years, and "don't worry sister, here is your pack!" - a reference to 'Wolfpack', the name of the convicted men's Whatsapp group.

Protesters also chanted "onward, the feminist struggle!", linking this incident to the misogyny inherent in the wider capitalist system. This system was also challenged in the 8 March International Women's Day strikes this year involving millions of people.

There is a widespread feeling that this sentencing is the ruling class's answer to 8 March - terrified of working class strength and solidarity, they used this sentencing to try and show the futility of struggle.

But the ruling class has seriously underestimated the fury and determination of women, young people and workers in the Spanish state. They see clear links between the countless incidents of violence against women and the wider attacks on the working class - the corruption of the PP (the right-wing ruling People's Party), the police violence against the Catalan independence movement, the incarceration of people criticising the monarchy, and brutal austerity.

Sindicato de Estudiantes (Students' Union) and 'Libres y Combativas' (the feminist platform created by the Students' Union and the Socialist Party's sister organisation Izquierda Revolucionaria) have called a students' strike for 10 May. They are demanding the sacking of the judges who passed the sentence and are showing their anger at the PP and its attacks on democratic rights. They demand an end to the misogynist justice system and violence against women.

This sentencing has reinforced the idea that women alone are responsible for our own safety, and that men who commit violence against us will not be brought to justice. In the words of the protesters: "We don't want to be brave, we want to be free!"

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