Defenders fly Gibraltar’s flag in Spanish Embassy protest

SPECIAL by Leo Olivero
Saturday’s Demonstration held outside the London Spanish Embassy in Belgrave Square was hailed a great success by the organisers the Defenders of Gibraltar and Community of Gibraltarians Worldwide.
A number of people made the trip to the United Kingdom from Gibraltar; later joined outside the home of Federico Trillo, Ambassador of Spain to the UK, by supporters, family and friends including locals living in London and UK residents and politicians like UKIP MEP William Dartmouth.

No one was in any doubt about the reason behind the protest ‘the Spanish government’s hostile policy over Gibraltar’. This was clear from the placards, poster, flags and also explained in leaflets distributed by organisers to passers-by and interested individuals.

By the time the demonstration got underway at 11am there was a very noteworthy crowd of about 150 people that had assembled outside Trillo’s home. Everyone was in good spirits, a point which must have stirred the curiosity of the Ambassador himself, who surprisingly invited members of the Defenders of Gibraltar group into the embassy.

After shaking hands with the Ambassador who was waiting inside the Embassy entrance with a high level embassy official, Trillo spoke to Defender’s founder member Anne-Marie Struggles.

She informed Panorama that she had explained to the Ambassador about her group and obviously the reason behind the protest and how the demonstration was going to proceed, including a letter and a dossier of evidence against the Spanish Government’s continued hostility, that were going to be handed to the Embassy at midday.

Mrs Struggles pointed out that the Ambassador was very cordial and civilised about the whole event.

Also speaking to Panorama, Defenders spokesperson Ellie McCauley-Cummins, explained how the event was developing, saying ‘there is a hell of a crowd, it really is wonderful, great spirits here, everybody is smiling and laughing, but we are getting our message across’.

‘People are arriving all the time,’ she added, ‘even the ambassador has had chat with us, passing cars particularly London cabbies, were honking their horns when passing by as a sign of support. Strangers were also stopping and asking about the issue showing real interest,’ she said.

At 12 o’clock the formality of delivering the letter, together with the accompanying dossier, was handed to a senior official, the Chief of Security at the Embassy in fact.

Gareth Gingell, Defenders of Gibraltar Chairman, was extremely happy that the event had been more successful than what the group could have imagined. He told Panorama:

“Today the Defenders of Gibraltar, Community of Gibraltarians Worldwide, Gibraltarians as well as friends and supporters held a peaceful protest outside the Spanish Embassy. The aim of this protest was to highlight the Spanish Government’s harassment, oppression and bullying of Gibraltar and its people, as well as hand a letter to the Spanish Embassy. We believe we have achieved our goal in a peaceful and democratic manner, a point confirmed when even the Ambassador himself invited us into the embassy.”

Mr Gingell in his letter to Mr Trillo made it clear the protest outside his home in London marks the beginning of a longer term strategy by the Defenders of Gibraltar, which involves travelling to diplomatic centres worldwide where Spain has interests (such as the EU parliament and United Nations) and spreading the truth about Gibraltar and what it is subjected to by the Spanish Government. They wanted to emphasise in their actions and in the letter that “it is not the strength of the messenger, but the strength of the message that is important” added Gingell.

From the Spanish Embassy, the Defenders of Gibraltar and supporters made the short trek to 10 Downing Street where another letter to David Cameron was also received at the Prime Minister’s residence. From there everyone made their way to Gibraltar House. The London demonstration on Saturday came at a particularly uneasy time, where tension, emotions and tempers are frail after two weeks of high political drama both in London and Gibraltar because of the belligerent attitude of the Spanish Government.

Westminster MPs, in particular, are demanding far tougher action from the British Government, who are now under increasing pressure to up the diplomatic tempo on Spain. In fact, if some UK MPs would have had their way Mr Trillo would now be pushing a pen somewhere in the Spanish Foreign Ministry in Madrid instead of in his lush London abode.

There’s no doubt the Spanish Government do not enjoy being publicly denounced or condemned in this way. It does the failing and frail Spanish image no good to be exposed in any foreign country, particularly as in this case in the United Kingdom or in places like Brussels.

Embassies and EU Political Cathedrals like those in Brussels have always been rich targets for protests and demonstrations for obvious reasons. Frankly, my personal opinion on this is what it has always been that we should make more use of them, instead of relying on a plastic keyboard, a computer screen and hordes of faceless voices who believe there needs to be 20,000 bodies huddled together before a physical statement can be made on the street.