Madrid's Women defy government's ban protesting at Puerta del Sol square on Monday against gender violence and in support of equal rights
By Luis Felipe Castilleja and Emma Pinedo
BARCELONA, March 8 (Reuters) - Holding signs such as "Respect my existence or expect my resistance," thousands of women on Monday protested across Spain against gender violence and in support of equal rights at International Women's Day rallies.
In a country where women's rights have been at the political forefront in recent years, the largest demonstration was in the city centre of Barcelona, where mostly women protesters wearing purple held up banners saying: "It will be a happy day when none of us is missing."
The peaceful and festive rally was marred by an attack by a man who pepper-sprayed five women on the street where the protest was being held, said a municipality spokeswoman. The motive of the attack was being investigated, she said.
The man was detained by local police and the women were attended by emergency medics, the spokeswoman added.
The Barcelona protest was authorized but attendance was capped at 3,500 people, who had to maintain social distance due to the pandemic.
In Madrid, authorities banned Women's Day marches after criticism that last year's rallies helped spread the coronavirus.
But defying the ban, around 50 women protested at the city's famous Puerta del Sol square, with some carrying placards that read: "Male violence is also a pandemic."
Police stood by as protesters walked around the square and lit a purple smoke flare.
"We are here to claim the right of women to demonstrate ... It's outrageous that the self-proclaimed most feminist government in history is banning women's marches on March 8," said Josefina Martinez, 42, spokeswoman of a feminist association.
A group of women also staged a protest after vandals defaced a mural portraying famous women such as U.S. civil rights activist Rosa Parks and Mexican artist Frida Kahlo on the outskirts of Madrid. (Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Luis Felipe Castilleja and Joan Faus; Editing by Giles Elgood and Sonya Hepinstall)