Spain: Thousands of People Take the Streets

Thousands have taken to the streets this week in Spain to protest against corruption, unemployment, and a political structure that favors a two-party system.

“We're not merchandise in the hands of bankers and politicians,” was the motto of tens of thousands who demonstrated all over the country on May 15, 2011, a few days before the upcoming regional elections.

It did not stop there. The demonstrations were followed by a peaceful sit-in on May 16, with hundreds camping at Madrid's main square, la “Puerta del Sol.” The movement, mainly coordinated by the youth organization Democracia Real Ya [es], has been extremely active online.

Demonstrations in Spain. Image by Juan Luis Sánchez.

Demonstrations in Spain. Image by Juan Luis Sánchez.

Ignacio Escolar in Público [es] reports:

Es una noticia preocupante la increíble distancia que se está creando entre los políticos y el resto de los ciudadanos. El 15-M no es el único síntoma de que esta democracia está enferma, de que no podrá sobrevivir si se mantiene la injusticia, la corrupción y la impunidad. Que los políticos aparezcan en las encuestas del CIS como uno de los principales problemas del país es otra evidencia más que los partidos no deberían ignorar si no quieren que la sociedad les pase por encima.

The huge gap between politicians and the rest of citizens is really alarming news. 15M[ay] is not the only symptom that proves this democracy is not a healthy one and will not survive if injustice, corruption and impunity prevail. The fact that politicians are considered as one of the country's main problems (according to CIS, the Spanish Center for Sociological Research) is something parties should not ignore if they don't want to be run over by society.

Periodismo Humano [es] reports:

Varios miles de personas no dejaban de comentar la sorpresa de ver tanta gente manifestándose para pedir trabajo especialmente, sí, pero también mecanismos de participación más democráticos y adaptados a las posibilidades que la tecnología ofrece hoy, relaciones internacionales justas y basadas en las personas, no en las multinacionales, justicia y la erradicación de la pobreza en el mundo… “Hartos de estar hartos”, “Los políticos mienten, los banqueros roban, los ricos ríen”, “Estamos cabreados y muy indignados”…

Thousands of citizens were surprised to see so many people demonstrating to demand jobs, yes, but also demanding more democratic participation adapted to the possibilities technology offers nowadays, fair international relations based on human beings instead of big corporations, the elimination of justice and poverty in the world… “We're sick of being sick,” “Politicians lie, bankers rob us, the rich laugh,” “We're mad and outraged”…

#15m, #15mani and #democraciarealya were the most actively used Twitter hashtags associated with the protests on May 15, used to share thousands of links to photos and videos of the demonstrations in 50 cities, and news on the upcoming elections and citizen demands.

Later on, when demonstrators camped at Puerta del Sol main square, #acampadasol (camping at Sol square) turned into the most visible tag, flooding Twitter with thousands of messages and becoming global trending topic.

This was one on the most retweeted messages on May 16:

@Anon_Leakspin: Primero te ignoran. Luego se ríen de ti. Después te atacan. Entonces ganas» Gandhi #acampadasol #spanishrevolution @policia

@Anon_Leakspin: First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win > Gandhi #acampadasol #spanishrevolution
Youth protest in Madrid, Spain. Image by Guillermo Martinez, copyright Demotix (15/05/11).

Youth protest in Madrid, Spain. Image by Guillermo Martinez, copyright Demotix (15/05/11).

Some users have called this movement the Spanish Revolution, in reference to the Arab Spring as an inspiration for Spanish youth.

@rujiki: Ya está aquí! es la Spanish Revolution ¿en cuántos puntos coincidimos? hay que apoyar #15m #spanishrevolution #nolesvotes

@rujiki: Here it is! It's the Spanish Revolution What is our common ground? Let´s support #15m #spanishrevolution #nolesvotes

Mainstream media like ABC have made the same connection:

Como si se tratara de la plaza Tahrir, en Egipto, escenario de las protestas populares [es]. El caldo de cultivo del derrocamiento de Hosni Mubarak. Esto es distinto pero puede ser el embrión de algo. Quién sabe.

As if we were in Tahrir square, in Egypt, the scenario for popular uprisings, and the path towards overthrowing Mubarak. This is different, but it may be the seed of someting. Who knows.

Some users expressed concern that Spanish #15M may not have well defined strategy and goals.

@dequant: El problema de #15M y similares es que esto (desde mi punto de vista) si no encuentra pronto un objetivo claro y medible no llegará a nada.

@dequant: I think the problem with #15M and similar movements is that it won't go anywhere unless we find a clear and measurable goal.

To define their strategy, goals and legal framework, demonstrators have counted with the help of some of the most renowned lawyers in Spain. David Bravo (@dbravo) and Javier de la Cueva (@jdelacueva) have been sharing legal advice [es] on the right of association and reunion [es].

More sit-ins are announced for today all over the country. The Democracia Real Ya [es] website was inaccessible on May 17, apparently because of the number of visitors, but users are organizing and sharing the locations of demonstrations through Facebook and Youtube. The next one: Tuesday May 17 at 8 pm.

Mobilizations can also be followed through live streaming.


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