Spain: When Everything Turned Upside Down...The Spanish demonstrations as seen by a Spanish living in Greece!

Article published on May 24, 2011
Article published on May 24, 2011
by Jesus Soberon Gomez photos courtesy of Antonio Julia Lozano When no one predicted, when the most boring, monotonous, and disappointing campaign for the upcoming municipal elections ofSpain was taking place, everything turned upside down, and the citizens, aware of their function as the base of the society, took the streets and claimed their rights.
 Thousands of people demonstrated daily in front of the buildings of the Spanish government,and hundreds of them stayed all day and night in tents, forming a camp that has gained power, deciding what to do next.

The police estimated that almost 20,000 people attended the demonstration in Madrid, which was called the “May 15th” through the public platform “Democracia Real Ya” (Real Democracy Now). The theme of this demonstration, "We are not merchandise forpoliticians or bankers", got 130,000 in cities across Spain, including Barcelona, ​​Granada and Valencia. Putting together an heterogeneous audience made out of young, and not so young, people without a job and with very dark prospects, mortgagedunable to pay their debts, or just people fed up with the current situation of Spanish politics and economics. Not even theorganizers expected such success. The media called them “the Indignant” (Los Indignados), and the reasons behind their gathering were diversed, but similar on certain basic points.

The  Basics: No matter what they regarded as responsible for the current state of the neoliberal system, from the banks rescued from bankruptcy, poor management of the elected or the measures taken in 2010 to contain the crisis in Europe, everyone agreed that the political system needs a remodeling step, and so they did  with cries until nightfall.

After the march in the Puerta del Sol square, in the heart of Madrid, many participants decided to set up impromptu and spend the night outside the offices of the city government. The security forces didn't allow the camping and violent incidents happened that ended with 24 arrested youngsters, 18 of them processed and later released.

This small failure did everything but calming the minds of the demonstrators. The next day, Tuesday 16, thousands of people in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain gathered again and claimed not to be led by any political party, union or organized group. Real Democracy had already clearly explained that they had nothing to do with what happened the second day, and made ​​efforts to explain to all participants and spectators, the peaceful character and the democratic spirit of their claims, and the means to achieve these goals.

The problem is that the claims were not clear. Again, the criticism against the government, banking, corruption, and electoral system that benefits the two major parties, the Popular Party and the Socialist Party, was in all vocations, but the alternatives proposed were highly pluralistic and changed from individual to individual. This, rather than a difficulty, was taken as a sign of democratic encourage and was evident in the meetings organized in the square, where through megaphones every participants voice was able to be heard loud and clear.

In Madrid, the city with the biggest number of followers, the people decided to camp again in the Puerta del Sol, and not to move until the day of elections on May 22. This concentration was declared illegal, but the protesters decided not to go home. There were no violent incidents. Instead of that, an atmosphere of enthusiasm, participation, and hope was the evident landscape. Around 12,000 people attended the protest, and several hundreds spent the night lying in DIY tents.

Slowly, the settlement was becoming more solid with the participation of all its members. An almost spontaneous order began to materialize with the creation of commissions of cleaning, communication, materials, or legal advice. Neighbors and local businesses donated food, blankets and other basic tools to support the protesters. Both in the settlement and on the Internet, the work was frantic. The people were asked not to drink alcohol or form groups of more than 20 members, in order not to give any excuse to the police to intervene.

While people in the squares chanted "you call it democracy and it is not" or "they do not represent us", politicians and candidates who were cold or critical at the beginning of the protests, suddenly changed their speech so to entice the protesters, to seem compressive to them, and ensured them that they would hear their complaints, and attempt to remedy their problems. At this point, the international press had already echoed the events, and the twitter hashtag of the camp and the demonstration were two of the most visited worldwide.

The open meetings of citizens continued their work, trying to combine the wide range of ideas for all supporters of the movement. Here came forward the asking of a reform of the Electoral Act, the nationalization of banks, or the problem of policy of the minimum wage, the right to adequate housing, public education, or annullingthelaw that prohibitsInternet downloads. The ideological organization is more complicated than the technique, food, blankets and supplies managing.  A cleaning company donated public bathrooms, and the maintenance work has been distributed within the camp.

Up to this day, the common position of all the protestor is the strong rejection of the political class, who is considered to be completely outside of reality, and desire to do good things, although it is a titanic task.

The turning point of the protests came on the 19th, after 4 days of camping, where Spanish justice decided that the demonstration for the day before the election, 21th , was not legal, since it violated the rules of the day of reflection. Before the verdict, the square board decided that this will be done anyway, twice asking the crowd if they wanted to do, and if they knew the consequences and what it implied. Both times “yes” was overwhelming.

While the camp in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities resisted, in other parts of Europe are already beginning to talk about this movement inspired demonstrations in cities such as Lisbon, Budapest, Berlin, Athens and Montpellier, and especially in Italy where they prepare an “Italian Revolution” through twitter, taking in cities such as Florence, Rome, Milan, Turin, Bologna and Padua, and even beyond the Atlantic, in Mexico City, Mexico, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

(with information from