Being a lazy Sunday morning, went for a stroll, looking for the right light for a good photo.
What I was about to encounter this day was more interesting...
But first... a historic building, once a royal residence.
As I wandered, started seeing people walking with purpose carrying
what looked like flags or funny umbrellas. Waving a flag is popular here at football games.
Football in Spain is what we call soccer in the US.
Hmm, young and old, they all seemed to be heading in the direction of the Plaza Mayor.
That's not the direction of the football stadium. I'll tag along and see what's up.
Nearing the main Plaza, I spot police and TV news vehicles lining up. A patrolman was flipping up the steel mesh that protects the patrol car's windshield in case of a riot. This could get interesting!
More flags are being unfurled. Banners too. Some people were wearing Spain's national flag as a shawl, wrapping it around their shoulders. This doesn't look like a young rowdy group of sports fans either.
Seems more like a happy family gathering or patriotic celebration of some kind, at first...
As more people pour into the Plaza, the throng steadily grows in number and enthusiasm.
This sea of colorful flags from the various political parties,
I later learned, represented the conservative right.
They seemed joyous with the escalation of favorite chants and songs.
The intensity and passion shifted as speakers with megaphones became more adamant in their comments.
Punctuating the words with strong, aggressive hand gestures.
My inner sense of self-preservation was awoken... could this turn ugly?
Was it safe for me to be here? Obviously, I am a foreigner, I stick out.
Due to my height and blue eyes, I do not blend well.
But what are they protesting about?
Now yelling, speakers grew bolder...
The crowd's gestures took on a more aggressive meaning!
Some mature reasoning minds seemed concerned
with where all of this was heading... like him.
And him... and her... having their doubts about what is being said.
In the midst of all the action and commotion, I realized this one guy kept staring at me...
Did the camera bother him, or was it...?
In the next few photos, I noted he kept turning away, hiding his face from the camera.
Oh, oh, he suddenly turned, ducked down, and disappeared into the crowd.
Is he circling around my way? Is he security? Or worse...
While the crowd itself did not feel threatening, individual actors might have other ideas.
The ever-growing crowd continued to press in, tighter and tighter, in order to better see and hear.
I am in the middle of it all. My feet are being stepped on, it's so tight.
I finally determined that these people were members of several Spanish conservative political action parties. They were not happy with a pact the acting Prime Minister had made with an ultra-left party in order to secure enough votes to pass an unpopular measure. An amnesty measure that this crowd strongly opposed.
Handmade signs calling the PM a traitor began appearing among the crowd.
Spanish people are very passionate about many things, politics being one of them.
The Plaza continued filling up with protestors and onlookers. As the size of the crowd grew
so did the passion and anger in their voices.
After grabbing a few more photos, I thought it was best to slip away.
Having been in similar situations in Latin America, I learned when in doubt
about what's happening around you, trust your gut instinct.
Keep your back against a wall, plan an escape route, and be proactive.
The moment the onlookers are distracted, slip away quietly.
What started as a slow, lazy day,
became an intense, passionate display of political anger and emotion.
An experience to remember.