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Madrid’s new right-wing government censors part of Gay Pride campaign

The Popular Party eliminates politically charged messages that were introduced on street banners by the previous leftist administration

Orgullo Gay Madrid 2019
Gay Pride street banners.

With just days to go before the 2019 Gay Pride celebrations kick off in Madrid, controversy has sprung up over why certain street banners promoting the event have not been put up the way they were originally designed to.

The banners hang from street lamps as part of a campaign that was organized by the former leftist government of Manuela Carmena. Some of the signs originally included messages paying tribute to the older generation of Spain’s LGBTQI community who fought for greater rights under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

But the banners that were recently put up only show the campaign slogan “Nuestro mayor orgullo” (Our greatest pride). The ones with messages honoring “those who remember the repression,” “who stayed strong,” “who stood up for our rights,” “who were there when we weren’t” and “those who truly knew what the stakes were” have not been displayed.

The PP-Ciudadanos-Vox government has censored the banners with messages that made reference to the fight of LGBTI activists. In image 1, the planned campaign. In image 2, the censored campaign. With just a week to Gay Pride, this has to be made known.

The spokesperson of Carmena’s party Más Madrid, Rita Maestre, has accused the new right-wing administration of censoring the banners. “The Popular Party-Ciudadanos-Vox government has censored the messages that made reference to the fight of LGBTI activists,” she wrote on Twitter. In the photo on Twitter, Maestre shows the design plans for banners on one side, and the final banners that were displayed on the other.

Speaking to EL PAÍS, Maestre said “they are not only eliminating these messages that allude to the collective fight for LGBTI rights, but rather the history of the past 40 years in which these people fought for the rights of everyone.”

Madrid City Hall declined to speak to EL PAÍS and instead issued a press statement saying that the campaign “has not been substantially modified” and that the changes have only been made to “unify the message” on the 590 street lamp banners.

But Maestre believes this response is “incoherent,” arguing that if the goal was to make the message more unified, changes would have been made to all the campaign material. She suspects that “they ran out of time to change the rest.” “There is a clear political intention in the decision to eliminate some messages and not others,” she added.

The campaign is aimed at celebrating the older LGBTQI members and the hard-fought rights they won for today’s community. “We want to remember everyone who fought and lost their lives for our rights,” said Uge Sangil, the president of the LGBT State Federation (FELGTB), at the campaign launch on Sunday.

“The Franco dictatorship persecuted the weakest, those who appeared the most feminine. Sometimes the police would arrive at a club and take everybody there,” added 70-year-old Pedro Antonio Beguería, who is one of the six LGBTQI members featured in the campaign, at Sunday’s event.

The controversy comes after the right-wing Popular Party (PP) regained control of Madrid City Hall thanks to support from Ciudadanos (Citizens) and far-right Vox. Carmena won the most votes at the May 26 local election but was replaced by José Luis Martínez-Almeida of the PP as mayor following a last-minute agreement between the three right-wing parties.

LGBTQI groups organizing the Gay Pride celebrations have criticized the new administration, pointing out Vox’s repeated “homophobic” comments, and banned the PP and Ciudadanos from taking part in the parade scheduled for July 6.

Vox attacks rainbow flag in Cibeles Palace

Vox has criticized Madrid Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida of the PP for allowing the LGBTQI collective to fly a rainbow flag from Cibeles Palace, the headquarters of Madrid City Hall, during Gay Pride celebrations. In a message on Twitter, Vox leader Santiago Abascal wrote: “If Almeida wants to show that Madrid respects the rights of everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation, he should fly the Spanish flag, which is for everyone, not the flag of a lobby which hates everything that does not think like them.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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