More than 18,000 people joined the march convoked by the platform “Otegi Askatu, Politika Askatu” and the “Free Otegi, Free them All” initiative to demand the freedom of Arnaldo Otegi and Rafa Diez. Arkaitz Rodriguez, Sonia Jacinto and Miren Zabaleta were released six days ago and they led the march together with the sons of the two independentist leaders who are still in prison. Rodriguez asked for the mobilization of today “to be permanent”. NAIZ (translated by Free Otegi)

Arnaldo Manifa

Long before 5:30pm the Boulevard of Donostia was packed with people waiting for the demonstration to start, for which they could tell that it would be massive. As the time passed it began among applause and shouts, with slogans for the prisoners and Basque flags, flags of Navarre, of Catalonia and Galicia giving colour to the demonstration.

Arkaitz Rodriguez, Sonia Jacinto and Miren Zabaleta, released last Sunday, were at the front and they carried the main banner the sons of Arnaldo Otegi and Rafa Diez. “Arnaldo askatu, Politika askatu” was the slogan under which it took place.

After them, a multitude of people and well-known faces, with representatives of EH Bildu, AB, Podemos, PSE, ERC, CUP, BNG, LAB, ELA and CCOO, among other organizations: Hasier Arraiz, Pernando Barrena, Pello Urizar, Rafael Larreina, Oskar Matute, Rufi Etxeberria, Jone Goirizelaia, Rebeka Ubera, Gemma Zabaleta, Mertxe Colina, Jose Luis Uriz, Laura Perez, Joan Tardá, Ainhoa Etxaide, Adolfo Muñoz, Jesus Uzkudun…

A half an hour after the beginning the tail end of the march was still in the Boulevard while the head had already passed Okendo Street. 38 minutes had passed as they went by the Good Shepherd until the end of the demonstrators had passed. More than 18,000 people had taken part in the demonstration, according to the count made by GARA.

The main banner had reached the point where it started from in the Boulevard at 6:15pm and, in fact, was about to catch up with the tail end on Hernani Street.

“Madrid won’t impede that the Basque Country sets out for independence”

The final act was celebrated in Alderdi Eder and began with some verses sung by Xabier Amuriza. Later, Miren Zabaleta, Sonia Jacinto and Arkaitz Rodriguez came up to the stage, and they received the warm welcome of the thousands who gathered there. Rodriquez spoke, who in name of the three, has sent a warm embrace to Otegi, Diez and the rest of the Basque prisoners. He also noted the plurality of those present in the march and pointed out that “we all share the demand of justice and peace”.

The man from Donostia pointed out that “the true protagonists of this new time aren’t us” but the Basque citizenry at the time he remarked that “we want and we need Arnaldo Otegi on the street” because “he is the leader not of the Abertzale Left but of an entire people, who see reflected in him the determination, the commitment, the coherence and dignity which unfortunately is missing so much in the political class of this country”.

We want and need each and everyone of the prisoners on the streets, he affirmed, at the same time he invited the citizens to “not to give up on the determination until the last one”.

“With the same olive branch and two roses”

He recalled that four years ago they went to the Spanish National Court “with an olive branch in hand, a symbol of the commitment to peace from the Abertzale Left, and they asked the state to not let it fall. Four years later we sadly note that the state has stepped on it and continues to step on it without any shame”, he lamented.

In this sense, Rodriguez denounced that the state “doesn’t want peace and prefers war because they don’t have a political offer for this country just as an abuser they know they can’t seduce or get this people to fall in love with them”. However, he warned that the Basque people “is a people resolved to live in peace and freedom. For that we return with the same olive branch in hand, but also with two red carnations, a symbol of the struggle of the national and social liberation of oppressed peoples and we say to them that they can let the olive branch drop as many times as they want but in no case are they going to be able to impede that the Basque Country sets off for independence. We are going to win the peace and independence”, he proclaimed.

“Giving support to peace and independence”

On his part, the spokesperson for Sortu, Pernando Barrena, has assured that “we are very clear about what is our ethical grounding. Never again. The past isn’t built, it is narrated, and all of us have our own experience of the past and, therefore, the right to have our own story, a story that can’t be imposed on anyone.”

He insisted on that “the future has to built on social grounding, of course” and he has stressed that his is “never again, never more violations of human rights and never more state violence to impede that the Basques be owners of their future”.

The independentist leader has underscored that “we have to start off from different stories and no one can impose party evaluations, this is fundamental to be able to set up spaces for dialogue”.

At the same time, he remarked that this march has come to “give support”, because demanding the release of all the prisoners, including Arnaldo Otegi and Rafa Diez, is “to give support for peace and coexistence among all the Basque citizenry, because there isn’t peace, nor normalization, nor normality possible while people are deprived of their freedom for political reasons”.