More than 100,000 people filled Puerta del Sol, a plaza in the heart of the Spanish capital and a landmark of protests in recent years, asking for change on Saturday, January 31. Demonstrators across the political spectrum, of different ages, and from several cities in Spain gathered in Madrid in what is now known as the “Great March for Change”.
The rally was called by Podemos, a political party founded just one year ago that nevertheless won five seats in the European Parliament, positioning itself as a potential winner of the Spanish general elections in 2016. The party has a strong commitment to citizens and has collected ideas raised during the years of outrage and protest following the financial crisis that rocked Spain. Responding to Podemos’ call for the march, citizens turned up by the tens of thousands, giving the party massive support in the streets.
The march on January 31 was presented as a political assembly in which the audience was able to attend the interventions by members of Podemos. The audience appropriated the most famous slogans of the Indignado Movement (15M)–the 2011-12 massive protests after the economic crisis. This time, however, unlike previous demonstrations the outrage was not the only reason for the rally–the will to join forces to change the system was also at the heart of the movement. “Yes, we can” was the most heard cry, also chanted in other rallies of recent years, to express that citizens feel empowered to end corruption and the reign of a political elite that does not look out for their interests.
“We dream, but we take our dreams very seriously,” was the most repeated phrase by Pablo Iglesias, the Podemos party leader who organized the march through a viral online campaign. He began his speech by referring to Greece, which has elected the Syriza party, which opposes the European elite, to form a government.
Greece is the first country that will reject austerity measures, according to Podemos, and the party plans for Spain to be the second with it leading the government. Spain faces the problems of inequality, poverty, and exclusion, Iglesias said, denouncing the country's recent governments. He also presented proposals for change as a way of stressing the need to take a left turn: “2015 is the year of change for Spain and Europe.”
The leader paid tribute to activist groups that have fought to defend people's rights in the past and now: the teachers and students that formed a green tide in defense of education, the white coats who locked themselves inside hospitals for public health care, women who fought for the right to abortion, “the tireless grandparents” who have struggled for social justice for future generations, the “deceived people” who have fought against the banks, and migrant workers who have struggled to stop evictions. “Thanks for being the popular movement that will allow the change. Never again a country without its people,” he concluded.
Twitter users have used the social network to share photos and videos of the event, the reasons for their participation in the march, and even their dreams about that day:
— ZBelaus (@ZBelaustegui) enero 31, 2015
— Luis Rueda Martín (@luisrueda96)
— Rafa Mayoral (@MayoralRafa) febrero 1, 2015
href = “http://t.co/IIxfIjNtSU”> pic.twitter.com/IIxfIjNtSU#SonreirEsVencer
Tic, tac. Tic, tac. El sonido del cambio. #EsAhora31E
— Pablo Soto (@pabloMP2P)
Tic, tock. Tic, tock. The sound of change. #EsAhora31E
— toret (@toret) enero 31, 2015