A Neo-Nazi March In Madrid: The Rise of Fascism In Spain

On Saturday, September 18, around 200 neo-nazis took to the streets of the historically-gay neighbourhood of Chueca in Madrid to harass gay people living there. Supposedly organized to protest the recently released plans for sustainable development in Spain, the 2030/2050 Agendas, the “protest” quickly devolved into homophobic and racist attacks, antagonizing the people who lived in the neighbourhood, and resulted in the arrest of one protestor who supposedly attacked another protestor during the march. The openness of the fascist rhetoric being displayed has been consistent with a rise in right wing extremism and homophobia in Spain, a country that, up until 2019, was regarded as being completely anti-fascist in nature.

Homophobia in Spain has been on the rise over the past few years. According to El Paìs, a leading Spanish news site, hate crimes have been at a record high in Spain, as “within the first six months of 2021, the National Police and Civil Guard received 610 reports for hate crimes, 9.3% more than in the same period in 2019.” This is largely due to the rise in right wing extremism in Spain, namely in the form of the right wing populist political party Vox, who rose to power in the 2018 Andalusian elections. They hold 52 seats in the parliament, running on a campaign of anti-immigration, “traditional values,” and a weaponized Christian faith. According to the New York Times, by “invoking God and the fatherland, the group has attacked immigrants who they claim come to take our jobs and crowd our hospitals and assault our women, and they’ve proposed slashing gender-equity,” ousting those who do not fit their ideal of a “true Spaniard.”

Spanish institutions have been ineffectual in stopping the advance of these policies. The government has been intensely polarized dealing with the crisis in Catalan, which has resulted in many domestic issues being ignored and even outright denied as problems. According to Eugeni Rodríguez, president of Barcelona’s Observatory Against Homophobia, “Spain needs to strengthen its policies against homophobia as the number of assaults and insults that go unreported is extremely high … We have accepted that we can be insulted, harassed and discriminated against.”

The Spanish media has also been a barrier to maintaining human rights, with many media outlets normalizing the portrayal of queer people and people of color as problems. According to Ronny de la Cruz of COGAM, the Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals Collective Organization, “It’s not the case that they’re saying ‘Let’s go out on the street and kill homosexuals’, but what they are saying is that we are a privileged group and legislation affecting us should be lifted and so on. That all has an effect.”

In response, the government is working to create specialized groups within the Interior Ministry and the police force to prevent hate crimes and support victims, and has stated in a proposed three-year plan that they are invested in increasing the budget and expediting the process of recruiting for the National Anti-Hate Crime Unit, with the details of this proposal projected to be discussed “at a later date,” according to MSN. Additionally a groundbreaking new bill is being passed through the parliament that would set international standards for gender affirmation and LGBT/women’s rights in the country. Representatives of the governing Socialist Party and its junior partner Unidas Podemos have been outspoken supporters of the bill and the fight for human rights that it represents, with government spokesperson María Jesús Montero saying that the government embraces the “plural”, “mature”, and “progressive” society that Spain has become, according to El Paìs, and “whether [conservatives] like it or not, this government will keep working on this line of social and civil law accomplishments.”

The path to protecting marginalized communities is being obfuscated by the rise in fascism in Spain, but according to NYT Opinion Writer Martín Caparrós, the government can take crucial steps to address these issues in the long term if they stop fighting and focus on the wellbeing of their citizens. “Only a serious, profound recasting of the mechanisms of democracy and the recovery of social justice can stop [fascists],” he says. “But, first and foremost, our community needs to be sure that our safety is guaranteed and that we can allow ourselves to be visible on the street.”