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Spain: 12M, a Ray of Sun in the Midst of the Crisis

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

On the 12th of May (12M), the Indignado movement demonstrated not only that it is alive and well, but that in fact it continues to have strong social support. A little less than a year after its birth, the 15m (the movement's name after the date it began May 15, 2011) has once again brought together tens of thousands of people unhappy and angry with the government's actions and handling of the European crisis.

Although the demonstrations took place on a global level, Madrid and Barcelona once again took the leading roles of the Indignado movement. A mass protest was carried out around 8 in the evening on May 12th in the Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) in Madrid, an emblem of this social revolution. The four marches coming from the four cardinal points of the capital culminated at the central plaza in a peaceful and festive atmosphere. At 10pm, the time that the government had specified as the end of the demonstration's legality, Kilometer Zero (Sol) continued to be full of people and the police did not try to break up the gathering. Just as was planned, at midnight the crowd let out a silent cry after which they took up again the cries of demands, the drum circles, and the cheers. They also sang “Happy Birthday” to celebrate one year of the Indignado movement. Next, the demonstrators spoke directly to the officers through repeated cries of: “Police, join us!”

"The key is in the Sun (Sol)" a poster says in the Madrid plaza. Photo by Elena Arrontes.

Nevertheless, in the early morning hours the authorities intervened to keep around 300 remaining demonstrators from camping in the center. They have taken action in several Spanish cities. The previous year, the movement was uninterrupted and the “Indignados” were able to stay in the streets where they had organized meetings and other activities. This time, those present responded with cries of “No violence,” but all were forced to leave and there were 18 arrested. In the following days, the “Indignados” returned to the plazas. On the Internet, they are denouncing the police actions, the attempt to create fear and to silence their voices.

The blog #AcampadaSol (#CampSol)[es] for its part posted a release from the Sol Legal Commission regarding the events. It came to the following conclusion:

Una vez más, los derechos se conquistan ejerciéndolos. Porque el espacio público es patrimonio de la ciudadanía, un ágora de intercambio de ideas sobre aquello que nos afecta para la contrucción colectiva de un futuro común. Esta es una de las premisas sobre las que ha de asentarse un estado que aspire a considerarse democrático.

Once again, rights are won through their exercise. Because public space is a partimony of the citizens, an agora where there is an exchange of ideas about that which affects our collective construction of a common future. This is one of the premises on which a state that aspires to consider itself democratic must establish itself.

In his post The removal from Sol and the biggest humiliation of my life [es] the blogger Principia Marsupia, after experiencing the forced removal, shared his observations which are now circulating on social networks:

En mi opinión, el gobierno debería sentirse muy satisfecho de que la desesperación generada por la crisis se canalice en un movimiento como el 15M, mayoritariamente pacífico. Basta recordar episodios pasados de sufrimiento social (cierre de astilleros en Galicia o de explotaciones mineras en Asturias) para comprender que cuando manda la desesperanza, la violencia estalla. En el pasado, los ingredientes habituales de una protesta eran las barricadas de neumáticos ardiendo y los cócteles molotov. El símbolo 15M son las tiendas de campaña.

In my opinion, the government should feel very happy that the desperation created by the crisis has been channeled into a movement like 15M, which is mainly peaceful. One only has to remember past episodes of social suffering (the closure of shipyards in Galicia or mining operations in Asturias) to realize that when despair is in control, violence breaks out. In the past, the regular ingredients of a protest were barricades of burning tires and Molotov cocktails. The symbol of 15M is camping tents.

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

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