March 18, 2020 / 1:16 PM / 17 days ago

Spaniards in lockdown bang pots in protest during king's speech

MADRID (Reuters) - Banging pots and pans from their balconies, thousands of Spaniards under lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic nearly drowned out King Felipe’s broadcast address to the nation on Wednesday in protest over a scandal involving his father.

People bang on saucepans with spoons on their balconies demanding from former King Juan Carlos to donate 100 million dollars, he allegedly received from Saudi Arabia's late king, to the Spanish health system currently struggling to combat coronavirus, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health emergency in Madrid, Spain, March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Repeating an earlier protest at noon, people in central Madrid, summoned by a call on social media, demanded that former King Juan Carlos donate millions he had reportedly received from Saudi Arabia to the struggling health system.

“The applause is for those who take care of us. The pans are for the corruption money to go to our health system,” leftist movement Mas Pais said in a tweet.

Spaniards have also been coming to their balconies to cheer health workers during the lockdown in Europe’s second worst-hit country by the virus after Italy. They have been confined to their homes since Saturday for all but essential outings.

Even in the traditionally conservative neighbourhoods of Madrid the noise of the banging of pots and pans was deafening, nearly silencing Felipe’s uplifting words urging Spaniards to beat the epidemic together.

“Now we must put aside our differences. We must unite around the same objective: to overcome this serious situation. And we have to do it together ... with serenity and confidence, but also with determination and energy,” Felipe said.

It was his first extraordinary address to the nation since 2017, at the height of a constitutional crisis caused by a short-lived declaration of independence by Catalan separatists.

On Wednesday night, the sound of pots and pans rang, too, in the streets of Barcelona, where the protest had been called by separatist parties.

King Felipe said on Sunday he had renounced his inheritance from his father, former King Juan Carlos, and stripped the ex-monarch of his palace allowance.

A Swiss newspaper has reported that while he was king, Juan Carlos accepted $100 million from Saudi Arabia. Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014 after nearly 40 years on the throne, has not commented on the report.

The royal household said in a statement that Juan Carlos had not told his son about the Saudi funds.

Reporting by Sonya Dowsett and Jessica Jones; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Leslie Adler

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