By Frank Leavers
O N Sunday afternoon a group of over 200 local people used their democratic right to peacefully protest against the scores of prostitutes/muggers and other anti-social elements currently operating within the resort town of Magalluf. In typical Spanish fashion, the throng of protesters set off from outside the Hotel Martinique exactly thirty minutes later than designated, but it didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of any of those who were taking part; it was that sort of occasion. Before the demonstration began I talked to a number of people involved in organising this protest. Liz Dobson has lived and worked in and around Magalluf for more years than she cares to remember, so she was passionate in her commitment to this cause.
Sick and tired
“I want our town back,” she blazed, “We are sick and tired of lawlessness on our streets; that means ‘lookie-lookies’, illegal PR’s the whole bunch of them. Those women who turn up every night on our streets aren’t really prostitutes, they are muggers, and everyone knows that it has got completely out of hand.” As the crowd at the meeting point swelled in numbers and TV crews jostled with photographers for the best shots of the colourfully dressed protesters, another woman Renee Nys addressed the crowd. She eloquently reminded them why they were there and asked for self-discipline and lots of noise during the demonstration. Renee told me that although she is Dutch she has lived in Magalluf since 1978 and wasn’t prepared to stand idly by and watch a place that she loves ruined.
As the demonstration moved off towards its pre-prepared route, two other women…Glynis Jones and Lyn Johns, told me that the present situation in Magalluf is “horrendous” with these gangs of ‘prostitutes’ even attacking women in the streets late at night. I was struck by the irony of the situation, whereupon a large police presence was in place to accompany the ‘demo’, yet the protesters complain that the authorities were “doing next to nothing” to clear the streets of late night muggers.
It was noticeable that as the protest march made its way slowly on its pre-ordained route there was regular bursts of enthusiastic applause from onlookers. One such person was Kevin Murphy from Nottingham who is holidaying on the island; I asked him why he was clapping the protest? “I was almost mugged last night when I went to a cash point, about four of them surrounded me and I had to make a run-for-it…it was terrible.”
Back in the protest crowd I got talking to local resident Paul who was walking with his young daughter on his shoulders. He told me that one early morning he counted 56 prostitutes as he made his way home from work. What struck me as the protest made its way around Magalluf was the fact that the protesters were such a mixed bunch of people. Men and women of all ages, young teenagers, children in push chairs and dogs getting a good walk. I also noticed that there was a large Scandinavian contingent who arrived at the assembly point in two mini-buses. I talked to a young Swedish guy called Johan and asked how many were in his group? “We have twenty friends here, some of us work in the E4 AM Bar and the situation is horrible. Last year was even worse…but I guess that it is only mid-June now so I don’t expect it to improve. We just wanted to show our support.”
As the protest made its way down Punta Ballena the noise of the demonstration became louder and louder. Chanting… “You’re not welcome anymore,” the demonstration drew some puzzled looks from tourists there, interspersed with loud cheers and clapping from business owners and bar staff and they rushed to the pavement to shout out their support.
One such person was bar worker Carla Ingham, Carla told me that she had worked in Magalluf for 10 years and was “totally sick of the situation.” She also described to me how a female friend had the top of her finger “bitten off” by a prostitute as she tried to intervene when some of them attacked a tourist. As the demonstration moved on its way, a lady protester called Julia Church-Michael confessed to me that “This is the first time I’ve been on a protest march in my life, but I was determined to do it today.”
I don’t think Julia was alone in that fact, because none of the protesters looked like ‘hardened professionals’ who would protest about almost anything.
Perhaps that’s why the demonstration was so compelling; no ‘agit-props’ and pointless posturing…just ordinary decent people who have had enough and need some help from those in authority. Surely, not too much to ask?
As the demonstration came to an end after just under an hour’s walking and the demonstrators hugged each other with a mixture of relief and joy; something quite profound struck me.
All the organisers of this protest march were women. Margaret Thatcher once remarked… “If you want something talked about ask a man, if you want something done, ask a woman.” And do you know; I think she might well have been right.