An early view of the protest as it began the march towards Palácio de Cristal. Image: Manuel Fernando Araújo
An early view of the protest as it began the march towards Palácio de Cristal. Image: Manuel Fernando Araújo

Thousands protest in Porto as PS Socialists celebrate 50-year anniversary

Professionals from ‘several sectors’ join forces to show ‘people’s discontent’

Another weekend, another angry protest – this time in Porto where teachers and professionals from various sectors marched noisily in the direction of the Palácio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) where an event integrated within the 50th anniversary commemorations of the Portuguese Socialist Party was (still is) taking place.

In a cacophony of whistles, drum-beats and chants of “resign!” and “Listen Costa, schools are struggling”, protestors hoisted banners high proclaiming “Help, Mr President”; “The money of corruption”; “Enough!” and “We are in revolt” (Estamos em luta).

This was an event organised by “Todos por Portugal” (All for Portugal).

Todos por Portugal has grown from ‘civil society’; it is not aligned with any unions. “This protest is everyone’s”, explained Joaquim Sampaio.

Hopes were that the show of force and discontent will influence the prime minister whose ‘presence’ over the last week of political confusion has been notably low-key.

Coming as close as it has to the April 25 ‘Liberty Day’ Bank Holiday, today’s initiative saw a number of those taking part holding red carnations; many of them wearing black.

Reporters for SIC television described the early part of the afternoon as “a protest by a group of teachers against the government, the objective of which is to draw attention to the impoverishment of the population”.

It was/ is more than that, but teachers are at the forefront of the discontent.

As the pamphlets encouraging participation in the afternoon read:”Families have been living with great financial difficulties due to rising costs of housing, food, transport, health, etc. The struggles and demonstrations by teachers, doctors, nurses, court officials, farmers, train drivers and many others have shown the great discontent in Portugal today. The government has lost its reason and is leading the Portuguese people into impoverishment“.

A teacher in the crowd told SIC: “This will only change if people demonstrate, shout and make demands”. A colleague beside her added: “Portugal needs better political leaders…”

A court official in the front line told SIC his union is starting a strike on April 26 that will last “for a long time” as court clerks feel “ignored and unfairly treated”.

After yet another week of political lurching this way and that; of a president who vacillates over the whys and wherefores of dissolving parliament, this afternoon has signified a new low.

Within the throngs of protestors is the Alojamento Local movement of Porto and the North – a pressure group created as a result of the government’s plans to limit the sector.

Also represented, says SIC, are activities connected to AL/ tourism, “management companies, accountants, training companies, restaurants/ bars, laundries, local commerce, cleaning companies and transports.

“The objective is to make the government, the political parties and the population, aware that, if approved, the set of measures included in the Mais Habitação (more housing) programme will have a devastating impact not only on AL, but also on thousands of companies in the tourism ecosystem linked to this sector”, says the channel. 

This is the week in which the president of Brazil is visiting Portugal, as well as a moment when Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez is in Porto as part of the PS commemorations.

Also attending is former Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven, and president of the national association of Socialist mayors Isilda Gomes (better known in the Algarve as the mayor of Portimão).

With live music courtesy of national icons like Quim Barreiros, Bárbara Tinoco and rock band GNR, “among others”, there also promises to be a great deal of noise supplied by the crowds currently held back from the Crystal Palace, but close enough to be heard.

UPDATE: SIC has broadcast scenes of protestors surrounding minister for parliamentary affairs, Ana Catarina Mendes, asking her why it is protestors are not allowed in the grounds of the Palácio de Cristal, when the event is meant to be ‘open to all’. Instead of a government promoting equality, the PS Socialist absolute majority has become “the face of dictatorship, the face of authoritarianism, the face of censorship“, said the protestor – a teacher who told SIC she wants to be able to teach her pupils about democracy, but it is not an easy task in this environment.

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