Portugal Protesting: “We Want Our Lives”

[All links in Portuguese except when otherwise noted]

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

In a few hours it will be known if the demonstration ‘Screw the troika! We want our lives‘ (Que se lixe a troika! Queremos as nossas vidas) [en], will have managed to bring together to the mains streets and squares of Portugal an amount of people which hasn't been seen for a long time.

The moment Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho announced more austerity measures, on September 7, 2012, he seemed to have given plenty of reasons for an increasingly generalized mass of the population to take to the streets and protest. The impact of the measures is more and more visible in the pockets and accounts of both public and private workers, in daily life and at the end of the month.

A few hours before the beginning of the demonstrations called for in 36 cities in Portugal, the 100,000 clicks on Facebook event pages had already been substantially exceeded. “A much higher figure than the 69,000 in the page that called for the demonstration held back on March 12, 2011, which took nearly 300,000 people to street”, had been reported by RTP a day earlier.

In addition to the events which are expected to take place from north to south and in the country's islands (mapped here by David Ferreira on Twitter), there are also protests scheduled for Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, London, Paris, the United States and Canada, and even Fortaleza, in Brazil.

Screenshot of the countdown website O Governo Português Já Caiu? (Has Portuguese Government Fallen Already?).

Screenshot of the countdown website O Governo Português Já Caiu? (Has Portuguese Government Fallen Already?).

On social media

On Twitter, hashtags #QueSeLixeATroika and #15sPT are already in use, as well as the usual #Passos, #troika and #crise. The tag #15s is being shared with the Iberian-wide protests that are also taking place on September 15, in Spain.

On social media there is no lack of creativity on the preparation for the demonstration, as illustrates P3 on its posters gallery or in the suggested Tumblr Trespassa o Passos.

Any citizen reporter can share their images in a recently launched blog which aims at centralizing and making available photos of the protests. O que diz a rua (What the street says), accepts submissions via Twitter (@fotosdamanif) or by email (to the address “fotosdamanif” at Sapo.pt or Gmail.com).

There are videos being shared on the YouTube channel of the organizers of the demonstration (queselixeatroika), such as a flashmob on the eve of September 15 in front of the IMF office.

The videos call for mobilization, illustrate the austerity measures and the current state of the country's economy, and try to clarify some “Myths and Unmyths of Troika” such as the video that follows titled Destroika [Untroika, a play with the words ‘troika’ and change in Portuguese, ‘troca’]:

“In this moment all Austerity measures imposed by the current Government only worsen the state of our economies”, believe the creators of the video Basta Porra Basta (Enough Hell Enough), on which the IMF is featured as “a normal bank [that] wants its dividends, paid without appeal or grievance” and that “gives a hell if the people are hungry or not”, while “our pocket politicians that were raised in the breasts of Freemasonry and the Political Parties, say yes to everything that these vultures ask, and force austerity measures”.

The video presents “two ways to solve this ‘crisis’ once and for all”, with a hint of sarcasm:

1ª Solução – Pressionar a Europa a criar urgentemente uma confederação de estados Europeus, com uma única legislação e mercado único apoiado directamente pelo BCE e governado a partir de Bruxelas. (…) E Portugal relega-se para uma posição de colônia balnear da Europa e prestador de serviços a nível Europeu, delegando o sector primário aos outros estados Europeus.

2ª Solução – Revolução e Independência da Nação Portuguesa! Todos os políticos e deputados actuais dos partidos do PS/PSD/CDS serão extraditados para um país da CPLP a ser designado. Entramos em incumprimento e saímos da União Europeia, ninguém paga mais um tostão da dívida. Voltamos ao Escudo e irá ser redigida uma nova constituição baseada no mérito e na igualdade de oportunidades entre cidadãos.

1st Solution – Pressing Europe to urgently create a confederation of European states, with one single market legislation and supported directly by the ECB and ruled from Brussels. (…) And Portugal is relegated to a position of seaside colony of Europe and services provider at the European level, delegating the primary sector to the other European states.

2nd Solution – Revolution and Independence of the Portuguese Nation! All political parties and members of the current PS/PSD/CDS will be extradited to a CPLP [Community of Portuguese Language Countries, a subtle critic to Prime Minister's recommendation back in January for the youth to emigrate] country to be designated. We go into default and we leave the EU, nobody pays one more penny of the debt. We go back to the Escudo and a new constitution will be drafted based on merit and equal opportunities among citizens.

Are you taking to the streets?

The Whole” of the public accounts (summarized in a table published on the blog Blasfémias) and the measures taken to cover it, can displease an increasingly broader slice of citizens. A letter by the writer and essayist Eugenio Lisboa, octogenarian, addressed to the prime minister and reproduced in the blog of Eduardo Pitta says:

Falei da velhice porque é o pelouro que, de momento, tenho mais à mão. Mas o sofrimento devastador, que o fundamentalismo ideológico de V. Exa. está desencadear pelo país fora, afecta muito mais do que a fatia dos velhos e reformados. Jovens sem emprego e sem futuro à vista, homens e mulheres de todas as idades e de todos os caminhos da vida — tudo é queimado no altar ideológico onde arde a chama de um dogma cego à fria realidade dos factos e dos resultados.

I spoke of old age because it is the department that, at the moment, I have more on hand. But the devastating suffering that the ideological fundamentalism of Your Excellency is triggering throughout the country, affects much more than the slice of the old and retired. Young people without jobs and no future in sight, men and women of all ages and from all walks of life – everything is burned on the ideological altar where the flame of a blind dogma in face of the cold reality of facts and results burns.

The question is what number will in fact go to the streets on this summer afternoon when the thermometer is reaching 30 ° C.

Some may passively let themselves go by the typical inaction that João Moreira de Sá (@arcebispo) ridicules on Twitter (mentioning the corruption case that involves the buying of submarines in 880 million euros):

se eu for para a praia com um cartaz “Abaixo os Submarinos” (que até contém ironia), conta? #15SPT

if I go to the beach with a banner “Down with the submarines” (which even has irony), does it count? #15SPT

Others are replicating the manifesto ‘Screw the troika’ and say they are looking for “something extraordinary”:

Se nos querem vergar e forçar a aceitar o desemprego, a precariedade e a desigualdade como modo de vida, responderemos com a força da democracia, da liberdade, da mobilização e da luta. Queremos tomar nas nossas mãos as decisões do presente para construir um futuro.

If they want to bend us and force us to accept unemployment, precariousness and inequality as a way of life, we will respond with the force of democracy, freedom, mobilization and struggle. We want to take in our hands the decisions of the present to build a future.

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


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