MADRID (Reuters) – Topless female activists on Sunday interrupted a demonstration in Madrid commemorating the legacy of Spain’s former dictator Francisco Franco, 44 years after his death.
Chanting “for fascism no honor and no glory,” half a dozen women from feminist group Femen, with the same slogan emblazoned across their chests, burst into the crowd when it reached Madrid’s Plaza de Oriente. They were quickly removed by police.
Hundreds of Franco supporters turned out for the march, which is held around Nov. 20 every year to mark the anniversary of the dictator’s death. Some demonstrators carried flags with Francoist icons and held an arm aloft in the fascist salute.
The leader of Spain’s fascist Falange party, Jesus Muñoz, said they were marching against the “desecration” of Franco’s remains, which were exhumed in October, and against Spain’s historical-memory law which recognizes those who suffered during the dictatorship.
“Now they start desecrating tombs, this is not going to be like 1936 (when the Spanish Civil War started) but much worse,” he said.
Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975, and his nationalist legacy still divide Spain and its political parties.
In October, Spanish authorities transferred the dictator’s remains from a lavish state mausoleum outside Madrid where he was buried in 1975 to a private cemetery, provoking strong reactions from across the political spectrum.
Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist party had long campaigned to remove Franco’s body from the mausoleum, arguing it would help bolster Spain’s democratic credentials.
But some political opponents dismissed the exhumation as a ploy to drum up support before a general election and criticized Sanchez for reopening old wounds.
During Franco’s regime, tens of thousands of his enemies were killed and imprisoned in a campaign to wipe out dissent, and as many as 500,000 combatants and civilians died in the preceding civil war, which split the nation in two.
(Reporting by Elena Rodriguez and Guillermo Martinez; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Mark Potter)