Spain: “Yes We Camp,” Mobilizing on the Streets and the Internet

Since May 15,  people in Spain  have taken the streets to demand democracy in advance the upcoming elections, with thousands camping out in different cities. On May 18, as protests made headlines in the international press, the Madrid Election Board banned the 15-M movement, but organizers defied them by converging on Puerta del Sol square for the third day, in spite of the rain.

Midnight at Puerta del Sol. Madrid, May 19. Image source: Mikel el Prádanos

According to the Madrid Election Board there are “no special or serious reasons” [es] for the urgent call for mass demonstrations. These declarations show the gap between the official discourse and citizen demands, and has swelled opposition against the two main political parties.  Protests have spread across the country and the Internet, with hundreds of thousands demonstrating in different cities like Málaga, Granada and Tenerife, and users sharing updates and supporting each other through social media, especially Twitter:

#acampadasol Mojándose por la democracia y por unos derechos y unos deberes más justos. Mucho Ánimo desde #acampadasegovia #nonosvamos

#acampadasol Getting wet for democracy and for more equitable rights and duties. Much Encouragement from #acampadasegovia #nonosvamos

Events in solidarity with Spain have also been organized, mainly through Facebook and Twitter, in front of Spanish embassies in different cities like London or Jerusalem.

@Anon_Leakspin: At 19:00 a camp at Spanish embassy at London (UK) will start. #spanishrevolution #europeanrevolution #yeswecamp #acampadasol”

Citizens have organized efficiently into legal, communications, cleaning, food, health, and even music committees. There was so much food brought to the camps out that organizers had to look for somewhere to store it. Also, dozens continue to volunteer to translate documents and the committee's decisions into English, French, Arabic and sign language.

Protesters in Madrid, Spain. Photo by Julio Albarrán, republished under a CC License.*

With hashtags rapidly appearing, changing, and replacing one another on Twitter, it's hard for both the media and the main political parties to keep up: #democraciarealya, #spanishrevolution, #acampadasol, #nonosvamos, #yeswecamp, #notenemosmiedo, #juntaelectoralfacts, #esunaopcion, #tomalaplaza, #pijamabloc, coexist with the tags for local camps, one for each city: #acampadavalencia, #acampadalgño, #acampadabcn

@LaKylaB: Cuántos decían que no era posible un cambio? Cuántos creían que siempre viviríamos así?Cuántos? . Esto es solo el comienzo. #acampadabcn

@LaKylaB: How many said that change was impossible? How many believed we would always live like this? How many? . This is just the beginning. #acampadabcn

Dozens of tags have turned this protest, ironically, into a movement that is hard to pin down. With no visible leaders and a decentralized communications system, mobilizations in Spain are becoming another manifestation of a global movement that traditional structures have a hard time interpreting.

Protesters in Madrid, Spain. Photo by Julio Albarrán, republished under a CC License.*

People are not only using social media to organize and share updates, but they're also making a very effective use of digital collaborative tools. Their goals and demands can be read on the Real Democracy Now website. There is also a wiki where users include information and materials, online documents with legal advice on the right to association and reunion, an urgent petition to demand an end to the ban against the camp, and one blog post published on the same day by several activists from the #nolesvotes (don't vote for them) movement, among many other initiatives resulting from online collaborative work: “#nolesvotes: for a responsible vote”

Colaboración distribuida: Te invitamos a copiar este texto y construir páginas de enlaces que referencien todos los sitios que dan apoyo a la iniciativa. De igual modo, invitamos a los demás colectivos que comparten nuestra propuesta a que lleven a cabo acciones similares. La fuerza de la red reside en la distribución y colaboración entre sus nodos.

Distributed collaboration: We invite you to copy this text and build pages that reference links to all the sites that support the initiative. Similarly, we invite other groups that share our proposal to carry out similar actions. The strength of the network lies in the distribution and collaboration between its nodes.

Camp site at Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain. Photo by Julio Albarrán, republished under a CC License.*

Some media outlets and political leaders have accused the movement for lacking a defined structure. But citizens, young and not so young, are organizing, in different and innovative ways.  They are occupying public spaces, both on the streets and the Internet, and are employing digital tools to organize, share, and build their own stories. A “silent scream” is planned for today, May 20, at midnight, and it seems a quite powerful metaphor for this communication gap.


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