FactCheck Social Media

Video shows huge Madrid protest – but it’s not over COVID-19

2020-10-20 16:16:46

The Statement

A video widely shared on social media purportedly shows Spaniards demonstrating against the country’s health system and the “new world order” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Facebook post from August 19 was shared to an Australian Facebook group on October 18 with the caption, “Why can’t we do this? TOO MUCH MCDONALDS HEY?”

The 28-second video pans across tens of thousands of people waving Spanish flags in a plaza and surrounding streets as the country’s national anthem plays in the background.

The original post’s caption, written in Italian, translates to: “SPAIN MADRID. MANIFESTATION (demonstration) AGAINST (the) HEALTH SYSTEM AND NEW WORLD ORDER.”

At the time of writing, the original post has been shared more than 14,000 times and attracted more than 1800 reactions.

A Facebook post
 A video on Facebook purportedly shows Spaniards demonstrating against the country’s health regime. 

The Analysis

Spain is in the midst of a second wave of COVID-19 cases with restrictions across the country. However, the video claimed to show protests against Spain’s health system and the “new world order” is more than 18 months old and relates to the government’s plan to meet with Catalan separatists.

Spain was one of the countries hit hardest during the first wave of COVID-19 cases. While it had started to regain control of the spread, the country is now experiencing a second wave of infections. A state of emergency was declared in Madrid on October 9 and a partial lockdown imposed.

The video was posted in August alongside the claim it showed protests against the “health system” as COVID-19 cases rose and the government introduced fresh restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.

However, AAP FactCheck traced the video back to a tweet of a protest in Madrid on February 10, 2019. The footage was taken overlooking the Plaza de Colón in Madrid.

Thousands took to the streets on that date to demand Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez call a snap general election after he proposed discussions with Catalan separatists to try and ease tensions.

The protests were led by right-leaning political parties in support of Spanish unity after they deemed the talks to be “a betrayal and a surrender to pressure from Catalan separatists”, according to a New York Times article.

Catalonia, one of Spain’s autonomous regions, has been home to a strong independence movement for decades.

Catalan governments have held two referendums on succession, in contravention of the Spanish constitution, the second of which was held in 2017 and led to a declaration of independence.

Several independence leaders were jailed in October 2019 for their roles in the failed succession bid, while others fled into exile.

The video included in the Facebook post was previously verified by Spanish fact-checkers Newtral and Italy’s Facta, both of which confirmed it showed protests on February 10, 2019, against the Spanish national government’s proposed dealings with Catalan separatists.

Another video of the 2019 protest from a different angle at the same location can be seen here.

Thousands protest in Madrid
 Thousands protest against Spanish government and Catalan pro-independence talks on February 10, 2019. 

The Verdict

The video in the Facebook post shows thousands protesting talks between the Spanish government and Catalan independence leaders at the Plaza de Colón in Madrid on February 10, 2019. It has nothing to do with Spain’s health system or the “new world order” and was not filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://aap.com.au/