Flashmobs and Citizen Classrooms – Spain's Creative Protests Channel Discontent

Spain's anti-crisis movement has been characterized by creative and constructive protests since 2011. Among the most well-known are organizations like the 15M (May 15 Movement) with its “occupation” of public space, demonstrations against austerity cuts (education, health, housing, etc.) by various affected sectors and their communal response, the 25-S protest that literally surrounded Congress and has repeated the act many occassions since, and marches that have swept the country.

The true genius of these protests, however, is found in the details of their slogans, their marketing, and the reforms to society they propose. One example is how groups use a flashmob, a sudden and unexpected assembly of people in a public place that  give a performance and then quickly disperse. The most recent flashmob pertaining to the crisis – which was organized on social media sites- took place in Madrid's Office of Employment after the new unemployment numbers revealed a staggering 6 millon [es] are out of work. A musical interruption offered a message of hope:

Flamenco group Flo 6×8 is also popular for singing and dancing performances in banks as a means of denouncing recently adopted economic policies:

The university sector has also been affected by the austerity measures.  Professors and students at Universidad Complutense launched a movement called “Complutense in the streets” that holds free classes outside as a means of protest. On November 28, the initiative converted a number of public spaces into “citizen classrooms.” The group maintains a blog [es] to communicate its happenings.

A university class given on the street. Photo credit: David Fernández (Periódico Diagonal)

The fight for healthcare, a sector that until recently has not been known for its activism, organized efforts to prevent the privitization of heathcare centers currently proposed by the government. As a sign of solidarity against the reform, protesters asked the public to hang white bedsheets in their windows until an alternative was found.

A campaign for support of public healthcare

Chatter on the social media site Twitter birthed a three-day strike on trash collection under the hashtag #Tubasuraalbanco. In response, the Madrid City Council requested people to limit their trash output. However, the request yielded an unexpected response: large numbers of trash bags were found piled at the entrances of bank branches. The demonstration quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.

@retuitator@Casillero90: New landfills in Spain! Now return our mortgages! #TuBasuraAlBancopic.twitter.com/OL9jfdyz“”


#Tubasuraalbanco. Photo published on Latri.ca

It doesn't end there either. Prompted by nearly universal cuts of Christmas bonuses, organizers planned an austerity Christmas dinner. The event was free and open to the public and requested attendees bring a sandwich to enjoy together. The event took place in Puerta del Sol, the center of Madrid, where all Christmas activities are celebrated. 

The Community of Madrid recently implemented a one euro tax per prescription at pharmacies. In protest, the Chamberí branch of the 15M distributed a pamphlet advising the public to refuse paying the tax because pharmacists are obligated to dispense prescriptions. Their mantra is “Your debt… the sick are not going to pay it.”

To circumvent the IVA tax hike (from 8% to 21%), a small town theatre director decided to sell carrots and “gift” patrons a free theatre ticket with each purchase. His reasoning was simple: the vegetables are taxed at a 4% rate compared to the new 21% rate for theatre tickets.

Theatre owner's sign claiming “The poor are not going to pay for IVA”


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