MADRID (AP) — Thousands of parents and their children packed the streets of cities across Spain for Epiphany parades Thursday to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings, with security tightened amid worries about potential terror attacks.
Madrid and Barcelona banned heavy vehicles from entering the city center and police were on heightened alert to help prevent any truck attacks like those in Berlin recently and Nice last year.
The Interior Ministry said 100,000 police, backed by helicopters, were being deployed across Spain for the parades. Town halls also placed bollards and large plant pots on streets to block traffic.
Authorities said the measures were preventive and not due to police fears of an imminent attack.
Spain has been one step below maximum national security alert since attacks in Europe and elsewhere in 2015. Police have arrested 175 suspected jihadi activists in that period.
The processions, held on the eve of the Christian feast of the Epiphany, feature decorative floats and people dressed as the kings bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. The floats also feature light and music shows, clowns and jugglers.
Christmas gifts are traditionally given on Epiphany in Spain and many Latin American countries. Children write letters to the magi, requesting presents on the eve of their arrival.