15-M movement shakes the system

by Jerome Roos on May 24, 2011

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A reporter for El País spent a week at the heart of the #spanishrevolution, and wrote this incredible piece, translated into English for the first time here.

Written by Joseba Elola for El País, translated by Jérôme Roos.

Jon Aguirre Such gave a hug through clenched teeth. He could not contain his excitement, the accumulated anger, the shared indignation. He was living a dream. A dream that has come true. The dream of many. This articulate and well-spoken young man, a 26-year old architecture student, and now a spokesman for Real Democracy Now, was hugging tightly and angrily. It happened on Tuesday the 17th. Magic Tuesday. At eight o’clock in the afternoon. In the Puerta del Sol.

Yes, because Tuesday revealed the magic of spontaneity. The miracle of communication. The power of spreading the message through social networks. The strength of a new generation.

The drowning feeling of indignation burst at the seams.

Jon had already been moved on Sunday, while leading the demonstration on May 15th. Arriving at the height of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, in Alcalá Street in Madrid, he looked back: it was full of people all the way to Cibeles. ”I almost started to cry. I looked at everyone in amazement: ‘It is possible!”. Jon tells his story with pride, with passion: “We just wrote history. There is no going back.”

Jon Aguirre Such, with its flowered shirt and black jacket, with his thin mustache and his neat black boots, does not obey the classic profile of the antisistema. Neither did the overwhelming majority of those who spontaneously joined the protest, which devoured the political campaigns and transformed all electoral marketing into plastic.


Act fun in sun / Christopher Manuel

People. Lots of people. Colorful people. Of all colors. This is how they are portrayed by El Roto, the teacher. Carrying a large white banner: “The young people took to the streets and suddenly all the political parties got old…”. It’s difficult to express more with less. It’s difficult to better summarize the desire and common feeling of indignation. The cartoon was published on Wednesday, May 18th, in El País. The next day was Magical Tuesday. The indignados made it theirs. That same night, they jumped, reaching out for the streetlights of the Puerta del Sol.

Who was going to tell Carlos, Carlos III, the Statesman, that with an unmoved expression on his face, astride his horse, he would ever lead an army of protesters draped in a long blue skirt and surrounded by colorful balloons? Under his egregious statue a revolt was being cooked, the Acampada del Sol, the demonstration born out of 15-M, which generated mirror movements in Barcelona, ​​Valencia and Vigo, in Brussels, London and New York.

The eyes of young people around the world are all watching the unusual warriors of Don Carlos.

Tuesday the 17th was magical. Magical because nothing had been prepared. Fed by social networks, a spontaneous demonstration bloomed into existence. The 15-M protests, by contrast, had been the fruit of conscious and conscientious labor. Three months of preparation. Tuesday was something else. Something new. Something different.

For Fabio Gándara, the most visible face of Real Democracy Now, it was clear from the beginning, back in December. In the Facebook group in which the 15-M Movement was starting to be born, he was a rush to hold demonstrations. “Some said, ‘Let’s wait. Organizing a protest like this is difficult. Civil society is asleep. Let’s wait three months, let’s work on it.”

Civil society has woken up. Or rather, a part of it. With the youngest at the front. With those who want to be the present and not the future. The millions of unemployed, those who can’t find work, those whose mortgages are on the verge of foreclosure, those who have to fear the arrival of each new bill, those affected by the cuts, disappointed by the poverty of political discourse, outraged by the electoral marketing. A well-educated generation, grown-up in the shadow of San Google, has decided to take to the streets.

How is it possible that such a rude awakening occurred in so little time? Some of those from the ‘analogue world’  have trouble understanding the dynamics of networks. Instantaneous propagation and viral messages. Feedback, the contagion effect, the multiplier effect. Some of those from the analogue world have difficulty understanding how it is possible to operate a flat structure, without leaders or hierarchy. Where everyone contributes. Where everyone feels included.

The Puerta del Sol, on Sunday morning. / CHRISTOPHER MANUEL  

Well, as you see, it works.

“They are assemblies of 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” explains Olmo Gálvez, one of the social media wizzkids of Real Democracy Now. “The information is updated, the ideas are added, in a chaotic kind of way, but it works, it yields results. It is as if the network has its own thinking brain. Proposals are made, we reach an agreement and we work.” Olmo Galvez, a 30-year old from Granada working for technological companies, had never attended a demonstration so far. He went to an Opus Dei school and studied business at the ICADE. He is now a part of Democracia Real Ya — or DRY, for those in the know, pronounced the English way. ”I never understood taking to the streets just for the kick of it. The important thing is that the demonstrations are about meeting and connecting with people, and from there things will move forward.”

Things, it turns out, have already begun to move forward.

Tuesday the 17th was magical. Magical because nothing had been prepared.

“About 18 or 20 dudes with a budget of $1,000.” Thus it all started, says Chema Ruiz, spokesman for Madrid’s Platform for those Affected by their Mortgage (PAH), with half a smile on his face. His organization joined DRY two months ago. “We found an assembly-like movement without leaders, a heterogeneous group of people, hopeful of changing things.” So it went.

Fabio Gándara, the man at the origin of it all, a 26-year old lawyer, started the social mobilization project with two friends: Eric Perez and another person who prefers to remain anonymous. In early December there were already about ten people with the same idea. They looked to Iceland. To a society with a strong democratic commitment that had been capable of imprisoning some of those responsible for the crisis, of promoting constitutional reforms. “We saw that the public could change things,” he says, his eyes alert — this young man who came to Madrid from Santiago de Compostela to study law and political science. They looked to the Arab world and watched dysfunctional societies articulating protests through social media. They created a Facebook group, Youth in Action, and a blog.

In January, the base expanded and was opened to social organizations. Its proposal was flattened out a bit further. A new Facebook group was created and inconcisely baptized the ‘Platform for the Coordination of Groups for Citizen Mobilization’. Spontaneously, bloggers were added, as well as members of the citizens’ movement State of Discontent, the Don’t Vote for Them platform — that advocates not to vote for parties that supported the Act Sinde… The list was growing, growing, growing.

The debate between the networks led to the sharing of a number of ideas: outrage at the citizens being forgotten in the crisis, the perversion of the democratic system leading to a bipartisan model, markets imposing antisocial cuts. Bottom line? ”There are two main culprits: the politicians, our supposed representatives, acting in collusion with the major economic powers, and the economic powers themselves, which influence the major political parties, impose a framework of deregulation and speculate on the country bonds,” sums up Gándara. And that’s how they got to their slogan, one of the keys to embracing so many different viewpoints: “Real Democracy Now: we are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers.”

The slogan quickly became the name of the platform.

A website was created. The movement decentralized. The list of organizations supporting the initiative was getting fatter every day. Everything was being cooked on the Net.

In mid-March, the first local assemblies were convened. The Granada House was the place where the first meeting in Madrid was held. ”There were moments of great enthusiasm. It was rare to meet face to face. All this has turned into something real,” says Gándara. ”We found that people were very different but we agreed on the basics.”

On May 2nd, a meeting was held in the Retiro. 300 people showed up. Priorities were set, anyone who wanted to could talk. ”It was like the speaker’s corner,” Merche Negro – DRY collaborator in communication and head of the audiovisual platform Vudeo.org citizen – recalls, referring to the famous London space for free expression.

Youth Without A Future, the Association of the Unemployed, ADESORG, Don’t Vote for Them, and the ATTAC platform transformed themselves into the engines of the movement. Oxfam and bloggers like Enrique Dans also appeared in the long list of adherents. A multitude of websites stamped their URL’s on the DRY platform.

A week after the demonstration, the vibrations could not be better. The pieces were starting to add up, miraculously, like a game of Tetris. If you needed a sign, someone would show up with one. And as such it arose on May 15, 2011, a date that will go down in history as one of the great successes of citizen mobilization outside of the established political parties and trade unions. More than 80,000 indignados took to the streets all over Spain.

One of the people who came to Puera del Sol hugged one of the policemen deployed there. / LUIS SEVILLANO  

The movement became a reality on foot.

Juan Cobo, a 26-year old photographer, returns home that night with a smile from ear to ear. What he has just gone through is unbelievable. He listened to the people of Real Democracy Now and recognized his own voice. When he gets home and hears about the riots, he has moment of huge disappointment. Well, once again, business as usual. But no, this has not been business as usual. This has been something new. Something different.

It’s four in the morning. Juan Cobo is so restless that he decides to return to the Puerta del Sol to thank those who have stayed there overnight. Thank them for enduring.

He arrives at the square and there are about 35 people there. They’re sleeping, they’re getting organized. As they have been doing every night of the week. Working when others sleep. Discussing, agreeing, taking action.

He can’t move away from this. He has never been associated with any social movements. But this is something unique. There is dialog, people listen. There are no leaders, one can truly feel part of the process. The Acampada Sol is being born.

Banner at the entrance to the subway. / Dominique Faget (AFP)  

At about two o’clock on Sunday, those 35 people, in their twenties and thirties, decided to stay and sleep in the square. At four o’clock in the morning, they begin to draft a manifesto (READ HERE). It is approved by the assembly at 08:00.

Real Democracy Now is moved to the side. They continue to support what is beginning to take shape there, but pass on the torch to the campers. Juan Cobo is one of them. He’ll be their spokesman.

Monday, four in the afternoon, Puerta del Sol. They have just set up a small bar, a tent. It is located near the bear and the strawberry tree, in the northeast of the square. The birth a mini-republic, Acampada Sol, is brewing. There is excitement there, lots of movement: water and juice into the small tent, documents going from hand to hand. At the other end of the square, a PP candidate kicks off his small campaign rally near Preciados street, in a blue tent that has little to do with the indignados. Just about fifteen people listen to him. It seems that he is crying in the wilderness.

At eight o’clock in the afternoon the assembly starts. There are a hundred people sitting on the floor. People of all stripes. Mostly young. Some come wearing Ralph Lauren polos, others torn t-shirts without sleeves. The neat boy exchanges ideas with the hippie. Talking. They’re different, but there’s one thing that unites them. They’re tired of this deceit, they are tired of being the political puppets of simplistic slogans, of the accused politicians on the lists. Chorus: “They call it democracy and it’s not.”

They discuss the possibility of being evicted if they stay to sleep another night. On whether it is worthwhile to keep the tent, which may be a reason to throw them out. Chorus: “We have no fear.” A young man takes the megaphone. “We are not Ni-Nis [neither student nor employed], I have two careers.” They applaud. ”There are camps in Seville and Valencia,” he announces, “we must carry on!”.

One of the organizers proceeds to read the manifesto which they adopted. This is the best way to know who they are, something that people have been asking throughout the week:

Fabio Gandara. / SAMUEL SANCHEZ

“Who we are: we are people who came here freely and voluntarily, who after the demonstration decided to come back together to keep reclaiming dignity and social and political consciousness. We do not represent any party or association. We are united by a call for change. We are here for dignity and in solidarity with those who can not be here.”

“Why are we here? We are here because we want a new society that prioritizes life over economic and political interests. We advocate a change in society and social consciousness. To show that society has not fallen asleep and will continue to fight for what we deserve by peaceful means. We support the comrades who were arrested after the demonstration, and ask for their release without charges. We want it all, we want it now, if you agree with us: JOIN! It’s better to try and lose than losing because we didn’t even try.”

The assembly burst out into singing. Acampada Sol has been united around this text. Passers-by stay and listen. Each time, more eyes and more ears are added. A veteran, attending the meeting standing up, asks for the megaphone. ”Friends, friends, I congratulate you because you’re doing a great exercise of citizenship,” he says, “Article 23 of the Constitution protects you.” Young people applaud enthusiastically. The movement is already breaking down generational barriers.

Night has fallen and there are about 400 people in the Puerta del Sol. They will sleep here tonight. From now on, no one will budge.

Paco Lopez arrives with a big bag to spend the night in the square. He is 47 years old and unemployed. He’s a licensed stonemason, an actor, a conscious man. In his bag: a book, Reaction, two water bottles, a green mat and a blue cover, just like those on the airplane. He is outraged. ”People are tired of all the cynicism, so much hypocrisy, so much political manipulation. Before, you had principles. The politicians had a vocation to serve and be humble, not a system for generating privileges. It looks like we’re restoring the feudal system!” Paco is getting angry. He lives on the 426 euros per month he gets in unemployment benefits. ”There are five million unemployed people. Those of us over 45 years of age are hopeless. People should be more important than the profits of corporations!”

Monday ends with a figure that’s just a prelude to what still lies ahead. There are few protesters at the square, but the social media are seething with people. The #spanishrevolution hashtag becomes a leading subject of discussion on Twitter. But not only in Spain: #spanishrevolution is a trending topic worldwide.

In the early hours of Monday to Tuesday, the police intervention takes place. They evict the campers. Those who spent the night there denounce the use of violence by police officers. They say they’ve been kicked, punched, beaten.

Tuesday, 16.45, Puerta del Sol. There is no trace of the camp. Ten police trucks were deployed in the square. At about six o’clock in the afternoon, there are a hundred indignados at the square, scattered around. Fabio Gándara, the visible head of Real Democracy Now, check his messages sitting on the floor, in the shade.

The afternoon is passing. Slowly, steadily, people are being added, and added, and added. At 8pm, the Puerta del Sol is full. Where yesterday at eight o’clock there were some 400, now there are 6,000. “Looks like it will be difficult to carry out this Assembly”, they sarcastically say from the speakers, placed under Carlos III. They burst out in euphoria. “We’re staying in the plaza, we have no home,” goes the chorus. “We’re on Facebook, we’re on the street.” At 21.29 the loudspeaker proclaimed: “Now we have the power now and the world is looking at us!”

The dream has come true. The #spanishrevolution has begun.

At 23.30, the volunteers glue cartons on the floor for everyone who can to stay the night. Chinese vendors are going around selling beer. The statue of Carlos III starts to grow tails, blue canvases unfolding around him. Some people have already brought a couch.

Megaphone: “this is not a disco, do not drink alcohol. We are not at a party, we are here to demand our rights.” At 3am, a new assembly is held.

Camp installed on Puerta del Sol / JCHidalgo (EFE)

On Wednesday morning, the outraged mini-republic is fully operational. There are meetings in every corner. Those gathered line the entrance of the Metro station with messages on white sheets. It’s turned into a mural of indignation.

Maps of the city-in-planning indicate where each of the committees are. One near each of the lampposts in the square: Power, Action, Extension, Internal Coordination, Legal, Care / Cleaning, Infrastructure (lost items), Communication. The infirmary is full of medicine and bandages. Every night, bars and restaurants in the area give the campers everything they can spare. At the food place, housewives arrive with full shopping carts. A restaurant owner brings pots full of stew.

The website tomalaplaza.net contains all the squares in Spain that have joined the revolt. The internet does not stop boiling. New hashtags are being created, new labels so the protest will stay alive on Twitter, to keep it a trending topic. Using a single hashtag means that the algorithm of the trending topics ‘get tired’ of the label and open the way for new ones. The hashtags of the indignados change around: #spanishrevolution, #acampadasol, #nonosvamos, #yeswecamp, #democraciarealya, #notenemosmiedo, #tomalaplaza, #pijamabloc. The hashtags are also decentralized: #acampadabcn, #acampadavalencia.

The protest spread throughout Spain. And other cities throughout the world (SEE HERE!). In front of the Spanish embassies in London and Brussels young Spaniards come together in support of the #spanishrevolution.

On Wednesday, the Madrid Provincial Electoral Board bans all rallies. In the afternoon, the police is present in the square. The agents have loaded the bars over their trucks and they do bag-checks at the entrance. But the movement is unstoppable. It continues to grow, defying the protest ban. At 8pm, a growing number of adults, seniors, immigrants, and grandparents arrive at the gathering. ”No, no, they do not represent us,” they shout in the square. The multiplier effect of the protest has no barriers. ”This does not end with the elections,” they exclaim.

The rain delights in tormenting Puerta del Sol that night. But that does not dissuade the indignados. ”Rain or shine, here nobody moves.” Hundreds of protesters hold up under the improvised blue tents that are overcome by the weight of the water. The cartoon of El Roto hangs from several lamps in the square.

The drafting of a manifesto is one of the pitfalls that the gathering must resolve. In the assemblies, it’s difficult to agree upon the whole world. Many ideas are suggested: reforming the law to create a more proportional electoral system, a review of party funding, income redistribution via progressive taxes, establishing a Tobin tax on capital flows, clearing electoral lists of politicians accused of corruption, have open lists, eliminating the life-long salary for politicians, abolition of the Sinde Law, the Aliens Act, the Bologna Process. The mini-republic continues to grow and the contagion effect is gaining strength throughout Spain. In Valencia, the number of visitors triples with each passing day. On Thursday, at 19.30, there are a total of 82 cities that have requested a room on the tomalaplaza.net website. The international press looks to Spain. The Washington Post puts the Spanish protests on its cover.

Friday, 12.25 noon. The mini-republic is a mini-city. The tents and sofas have multiplied. ”Do you know where Respect is?” asks a young man in the Graphic Arts workshop. ”I don’t know, go to Action and ask.”

The signs keep getting better. There is a plastic Tupperware filled with markers to improve the appearance of the messages. The long blue skirts of Carlos III continue to flourish. Next to the bear and the strawberry tree a popular forum has sprung forth.

There are now 166 cities worldwide that attract protests. With 40,000 fans, the number of Twitter followers of @democraciareal exceeded the sum of @ppopular and @psoe. A black and orange sign on the square, one of those used to sell or rent apartments, reads: “Slave labor for rent. 600 euros a month.” Someone has removed the 600 and jotted down 400.

On Friday night the big moment arrives, the moment of silence that makes way for a day of reflection. People do not fit in the square anymore, all the streets leading towards it are bursting. At midnight there is silence. More than 25,000 people, many with their mouths covered with tape, shut up in unison. Silence. You can hear the bells of the clock from Puerta del Sol. The minute does not last a minute. The screaming goes out of control soon. Hands are raised with turning wrists, the symbol of approval used in the assemblies. Strangers hug, some with tears in his eyes. In Valencia, the numbers of protesters also runs wild: more than 10,000 people are in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

Every day, there are more people, the numbers are multiplying. Yesterday there were 300 requests at the tomalaplaza.net domain. 200 lawyers were appointed to the Camping de Sol. A total of 15 nurses. Seven solar panels, 15 computers. The squares kept filling up with people all Saturday night. Despite the protest ban on the day of reflection. The phenomenon continued to grow, adding more people, unstoppable.

“There has been a very rapid disintegration of society,” said Miguel Martinez, a sociologist and expert in social movements, professor at Complutense University. ”The insecurity has emanated from the political elites, who have tightened the screws every day. Different governments have pursued policies that were very aggressive for most people. The picture is very sad. There had to be some kind of safety valve. The people feel that their life has become volatile. When the indignation finally comes, you can’t go on anymore because they make you disappear as a person. When you lose your dignity, you’re just labor.”


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Arianne Sved May 25, 2011 at 15:12

Thanks a lot for translating this great article, Jerome. I’m a Spaniard (mostly) living in the US and I’m amazed at how little this revolution is being covered in the US media. I also happen to be a professional translator and writer, so if you need some help, let me know :) Arianne


Jérôme E. Roos May 25, 2011 at 15:50

Thanks Arianne, greatly appreciate it! The mainstream media are indeed massively under-reporting these protests. Keep an eye on Twitter, Facebook and this blog if you want to stay updated ;) Thanks again and all the best!


JUAN JOSE MONTERO June 26, 2011 at 20:29

La ola que llevó al 15M también llevó al 22M.


Elisa Trocmé October 11, 2011 at 21:10

A message I recieved from the Indignates Movement in France from the 15 M and transalated:

ZIP Movement 15-M

September 2011

15-M of Granada
NO to the constitutional reform. Public debate. Now it’s the people who decide!
Gatherings September 1st and 2nd , 2011
20h, gardens Triunfo

July 23rd and 24th, the movement M-15 has proven to be able to mobilize not only Madrid but also the surrounding villages, and many foreigners who wanted to participate, learn and see for themselves what is happening here.

On the 25th the first 15-million Social Forum the was inaugurated in Retiro Park, with the support of the Nobel Prize in Economics Joseph Stiglitz.

On the 26th, a group of motivated people took off for Brussels and the thousands of people from the rest of Spain returned to their occupations.
Foreigners have also returned home with their cameras and notebooks filled with notes and ideas.

On July 29th the President of the Government announced an early election: the next general election will be held November 20th .
15-M Assemblies and committees began working on “what to do” facing these elections with an even more restrictive electoral law.

Then came August. The parliament and political leaders went on vacation, the government worked in slow motion, workers were disconnected, students had time party … it looked like the entire country was resting in the shade of something, as it watched, perplexed, at the actors of the economic disasters facing daily more financial bursts than during the entire millennium.                                       The World Youth Day held in Madrid offered many young Catholics from all over the world the opportunity to a to participate in the meetings Porta del Sol.
The tension in the streets of the capital between pilgrims and opponent protesters increased at several occasions.
The General Assembly of the 15-M did not rule on the subject, but many districts have joined the secular calls for demonstrations.
Finally, the spirit of inclusion and non-violence opened the path of dialogue and we managed to prioritize the idea that the 15-M was opposed to the public funding of the Pope’s visit but not to the religious event in itself, which deserved respect.
It may be because of all the fuss that some did not notice the hum of the ceaseless underground calls, meetings, assemblies and work proposals that took place during the month in all the cities of Spain . They all helped and managed to give birth to this powerful social movement, with more and more clear positions taken. Just visit the website of the movement in any city to realize the level of all this intensive work done to ensure the high level of development and the organisational convergence that guides the joint proposals.
There also were activities to impact the general public, organized from the heart of the movement. Among them, “Take the beach” and “Take the mountain.” Both were born at the 15-M Summer Forum for the Environment which was created to mark the arrival of the indignants Marches in Madrid July 25th.                                                                                                                                                       There was a proposal to denounce certain environmental crimes on the coasts and mountains of the country. With this action, we managed to provide active investment, an opportunity to continue working within many summer resort areas, enjoying the change of location, expanding the spirit’s scope of that revolution. Thus, the 15-M was able to reach the mountains of Teruel or Leon, and the beaches of Cartagena or Marina de Cope, not to mention the many places through which the itinerant “sunny holiday.” initiative increased as it travelled through the country.
However, in this ferment, if some had the impression of an inactive movement, resting during the general summer festivities or the need for holidays to calm tensions, they are mistaken on the whole line. All the people who, since May, participated in the 15-M movement, where-ever they spent their summer. have spread the word, worked and talked incessantly, taking advantage of the absence of large mobilizations, to build and strengthen networks of people, ideas and projects that are now visible since September and taking over public squares in Spain but also worldwide.
It is likely that all this has been swept under the carpet of mainstream media. Even the largest events in the history of Israel or those of Chile were treated as second or third category news by the media, that is still very busy, covering the very important news for the banks and International financial activities.                                                                                                                                                           This is why it is not surprising that almost no one has echoed the small August 16th call : “If today is Wednesday and you are in Belarus, join the event! European Revolution! “  Or for example, this other one at the beginning of August ” next general meeting to fill Wall Street on August 13th in Tompkins Square, New York. ”
Many things are happening simultaneously in many countries, and the M-15 Movement has also inspired other movements outside Spain.


Page 2 – September 2011

(In the photo above-left of the page 2: AN EMERGENCY FINANCIAL COUP)


Spain: The express reform of the Constitution: a new cause for outrage

The Magna Carta of the Spanish State had not been amended since its approval in 1978, but the PP and the PSOE have successfully set a seemingly impossible thing to do without a referendum and a national debate: in just two weeks, the text of Article 135 was amended to allow a cap on public spending. The indignation of citizens and the manifestations of disagreement with this process started in September when the after holidays Autumn routine does not seem to be very routine at all.

United States: The day of wrath

An initiative was created to bring together U.S. social movements around organizing non-violent protests at a national level and in every state, to require the restoration of integrity within the electoral system. Its basic principles are: 1) non-violence, 2) Non-participation in political parties, 3) The willingness of all participants: no donations accepted, 4) Autonomy for each national and state level demonstration, with the exception of issues concerning all.
Under this initiative, Americans were invited to take Wall Street (New York) on September 17th to highlight the responsibility of financial power in the current crisis. Meanwhile, peaceful meetings are planned in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, and a call was made to unite the rest of the country to protest.

Chile: privatized education

Since the return to democracy in Chile after General Pinochet’s dictatorship, mobilizations have taken place, but always with low turnouts and a lot of repression. Until last year when a successful progress was made: there was a march of 5,000 people and another march that went against all expectations mobilizing more than 10,000 people.
However, in 2011, first on the theme of the environment, and then around education, there has been a leap forward, mobilizations brought together at first 50 000 people (against the installation hydroelectric plants in Patagonia – Project HidroAysén-) and then 100 000 people (against the privatization of education). These figures correspond to the mobilizations in the city of Santiago. The government’s popularity has fallen, the student movement is spreading throughout high schools and universities and gaining supporters in all social strata. Since June, mobilizations are held every Thursday. The weekend of the 20th and 21st of August, 550,000 people gathered in a park during a family gathering for education. August 24th and 25th, a two-day national strike was organized.

Israel: A crisis beyond housing

During the month of July, hundreds of young Israelis camped in protest against the impossibility of acquiring or renting a home. August 6th, 300,000 people took the streets to demand a solution to this crisis which they suffer, that is seriously deteriorating the middle classe’s standard of living and that of the whole country. It was the largest demonstration in its history, and even more, during the first weekend of September, there were more than 400,000 to take the streets across the country.

Germany: Berlin Camp

Late August, a group of 50 to 100 Germans began to occupy Alexanderplatz, the city’s main square. Despite the fact that Germany appears to be on the sidelines of the current crisis and its inhabitants are quite inactive and have shown little interest in the camp’s activities so far, the rise of enthusiasm that this action has received and it’s growing membership seems to contradict the official reading of this movement.

India: Political corruption

Hundreds of thousands of people occupied the streets during the month of August to protest against corruption, and the arrest of political activist Anna Hazare.
As a leading figure of the Indian Movement Against Corruption, Anna Hazare was arrested because she launched a campaign against a bill that exempts the Prime Minister and senior judges from trial when suspected of corruption. By refusing to be released and refusing to eat until the movement’s demands are accepted, after two weeks of hunger strike, her appeal was heard by many who mobilized in support of those claims and took to the streets of all over India mid August,.

Iceland: Criminal responsibility

The former president of the Icelandic government sat on the bench of the tribunal for negligence in his handling of the financial and banking crisis.

Page 3 – September 2011


On September 17th, an estimated 20,000 people will invade Manhattan with tents, stoves and barricades. They aim to hold Wall Street peacefully for a few months. By this action, the U.S. will join the protests already underway in many other cities worldwide.
The occupation of  Wall Street is reaching the heart of the global financial system. It was here that this great crisis started and here that it thrives and grows. We are here in the largest machine of corruption, destabilization and anti-democratic practises of the world.
By marching down the streets of the capital and epicenter of the global financial markets, Americans give us great support. They will stay until our demands are taken into account. One of the key demands is the end of the control of the monetary system by private interests. The DEMAND is that monetary control be publicly owned, NON-PROFIT and no longer be in the hands “of markets.” To achieve this, it is necessary to create state banks in each country.
They brandish the example of North Dakota, which has achieved and records the lowest unemployment rate in the country as well as an annual budget surplus. “If Dakota has done it, each state can do it!” they say.
We can end the control of the markets on our governments if we free ourselves of their absolute control over our economy and our livelihoods.
To achieve this, we must stop being inactive and go out en Mass in the streets. Our “governments” must begin to listen.
All reasonable experts agree that the path we follow has no way out. That it will go from bad to worse. There is another way of understanding this crisis, but it must be done outside of the markets dictatorship.
These struggles must be lead in the streets, in new ways and with new energy, refusing violent confrontation. By developing our creativity and showing them that within us lives force, energy, joy and wisdom: active non-violence. That the rulers are left with nothing more more than brutal force and repression.
It goes without saying that unity is strength. While our governments will seek to divide us, we oppose them by growing and strengthening our unity around the world.

Other cities are joining the mobilization

The New York initiative is spreading to other cities where similar demonstrations are held at their respective stock exchange such as Madrid, Paris, Milan, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Tokyo, Sydney and Frankfurt. It is possible that other cities will follow.

To connect with these mobilizations city by city on the internet and twitter

# TOMALABOLSA – Madrid, Spain
Read the action plan – Paris, France
# OCCUPYBANKOFENGLAND – London, United Kingdom
# USDORSF – San Francisco, USA
# USDORLosA – Los Angeles, USA
# OCCUPYBAYSTREET – Toronto, Canada
# OCCUPYCANARYWHARF – London, United Kingdom
# OCCUPYMARTINPLACE – Sydney, Australia
# OCCUPYBANKENVIERTEL – Frankfurt, Germany

Page 4 – September 2011

October 15th
United for Global Change

October 15th, people around the world will march the streets and occupy the place.                             From America to Asia, from Africa to Europe, people will get up to claim their rights and demand a real democracy. The time has come for us all to participate in a global non-violent protest.
The power in place, controls working forces for the benefit of a few, ignoring the will of the vast majority as well as the human and environmental cost we all pay. This intolerable situation must stop.
Together with one voice, we shall crush the political and financial elites that they serve.                      It is up to us to decide our future. We cannot continue to leave the power in the hands of politicians and bankers who do not represent us.
On October 15th we will gather in the streets to begin the global change we want. We will do so peacefully. We demonstrate, we will discuss, we will organize until it happens. It is time to unite. It is time they listen. 


From the beginning, the authorities want to label the 15-M as a violent movement. They seek to radicalize it. It is their tactic to neutralize it, to reduce its plurality, to withdraw its legitimacy and reduce its social support.
On the other hand, if we are non-violent, we make it more difficult for them and they do not know how to attack us. Non-violence allows us to express ourselves in many ways in the street, as we can move or stop, talk to passer-bys, speak out loud our requirements, but also express our anger, our joy, transform our vulnerability into force and break their notions of what is predictable and what they expect from us.
Non-violence allows us to express ourselves within multitude and difference, men and women, young and old, with or without papers, as courageous and as coward as we may be .                                Our demonstrations welcome families. They mobilize the whole society.

Lessons / Teachings

What we have learnt during these months, is that we need to value and promote the building of  a movement within diversity, integration, horizontal organization, collective intelligence, resourcefulness, inspiration. An active but peaceful and nonviolent movement , which progresses in self-organization, both locally and internationally. These are the keys that will allow us to change the world and our lives.

Non-violence in the DNA

The 15-M is a peaceful and non-violent movement. Non-violence is so central to its substance that it was mentioned in the second manifesto: it goes without saying, it is totally self-evident.              Someone said “it is in our DNA and we are part of it.”
This “non-determined decision” is so strong that, so far, no one has violated it, despite the provocations, beatings and expulsions.

Page 5 – September 2011

Ongoing action to address the conflict

Nonviolence does not mean fleeing conflict. We have occupied places, we have demonstrated without authorization, we have blocked evictions, we have pushed the police out of certain neighborhoods, we have generated great mobilizations … That is to say, the 15-M’s non-violence is not passive, it does not follow the law blindly, nor does it submit to a so called politically correct behaviour, it is active, rebellious, disobedient when facing injustice and creative.
Non-violence requires to lay the conflict on our own terms, writing the scenarios ourselves, setting the pace and using the methodologies that most benefits our cause.

Impressive progress

The 15-M was able to do what other more “radical” movements have been trying to do for years. It’s about strength, but that of non-violence has obtained broad popular support.

What is force?

It is to modify and change reality, to question the dominant themes and programs, to “impose” the real problems, make public what they want concealed, and to speak about what is forbidden to say. To have strength is also transforming life, relationships and the vibrations between people.
Do not confuse force and violence, they are not synonymous. The force is in each one of us and is not measured with the violence that one can exert unto others. If the 15-M movement has “decided” to be non-violent it is because it clearly felt that violent action would weaken its moral strength and popular support. We seek the strength of the “radical non-violent”, which made us and makes us stronger and more determined. The de-construction of the system without destruction is our best option.

Non-violence makes us unpredictable

The movement has shown great intelligence by not responding to provocations and continually anticipating scenarios and pitfalls that authorities try to trap us in.
Violence makes us predictable: it strengthens the positions and roles of (repressive police / protester victims.) Here everyone knows who he/she is, what identity one has and what one must feel toward each other. In these situations, we take the tangent, because we do not want them to lead us in the famous spiral of violent action – repression – arrests – injuries – fear – anger – reaction – anti-repressive campaigns, where we lose the opportunity to continue to raise fundamental questions such as: how do we live together, the form of government we want, what should be done with the wealth we produce, how to improve our lives, and so on.

Non-violence defies the opponent’s logic

Violence seeks to weaken the other, to neutralize or physically eliminate the opponent. Nonviolence wears out opponents psychologically by emotional defeat and disarming arguments, countering their logic, performing unpredictable, imaginative actions and always with the power of consistency, ethical and legitimate claims. It acts against the power’s representatives, but not against people (eg police) who are also the system’s victims.
We have often witnessed these positive actions during the protests, when speaking cordially to the police with ironical or compassionate formulations, that unlock the situation: by disconcerting, creating discomfort and uneasiness, breaking automatic reactions, challenging stereotypes, questioning, short-circuiting the predictable, that, what everyone knows what he or she is expected to think, do and feel.

Non-violence: a matter of practise

The enemy against which we struggle with is a system of values ​​and a “logic”, with which we comply (for example, every day we make hundreds of decisions that are in line with this system that we are all part of). We must review many of our own attitudes and behaviours to do our part of the changes within ourselves in order to achieve the changes we want to produce in the world. This requires learning: how to better understand our relationship to others, change our selfish or discriminatory attitudes, and develop responsible behaviour as one includes the “we” in ones life.
There is a large “power of humanization” in the M-15 movement. We say that we are human beings and not commodities in the hands of bankers and politicians. For the same reasons we can think that a police officer is much more than his/her “function” and address his/her humanity (when we try to establish dialogue and we remind them that they too have mortgages, and that their children suffer from the deterioration of national education or that their parents retirement is decreasing).

Examples of non-violence in history

We are developing a new type of struggle that is far from over. We are only beginning.                There are many examples of nonviolent struggles in history that we dig out of oblivion. It is up to us to put them up to date with the means that we have at our disposal (internet, social networks, or communication) providing us with new opportunities and greater nonviolent action power. Unthinkable tools in the days of Gandhi.
We believe that there are many things we can learn from the proposals and actions of Mahatma Gandhi in India in the early twentieth century, and from the struggles of Martin Luther King who has worked for the recognition of civil rights of coloured people in the United States, not to mention the actions of the Ghanaian Kwame Kkrumah in Africa or those of Mario R. Cobos (Silo) in Latin America with his active non-violence.

Civil disobedience

Nonviolence is an active attitude towards the world, using different tools: Facing the power with “Void”, denouncing and non-cooperation with injustice and violence. But non-violence uses another form of struggle : legitimate civil disobedience. It can be set up against institutionalized injustice, against unjust laws. One of the greatest pioneers of civil disobedience that we can learn from is Henry David Thoreau.

Are violence and nonviolence compatible?

Experience shows that when violence occurs, it always takes a central position as a vortex that sucks and swallows everything else. Non-violence express itself in many ways, violence has only one way. Non-violent actions can involve many different people, but violent actions are only available to a clearly defined category of persons.

Nonviolence and geography

As our movement grows mainly on public places or in the street, it does not appear that the strategy of non-violence focuses specifically on those places. This makes us very vulnerable. Our strength is our mobility and we apply in “all” areas. In these areas we come and go according to our interests. But our real achievement is in the intangible not in material things.

The intangible

Let us be as intangible as possible without defined areas or rearguard, with no leadership or spokesmen, no headquarters, no symbols or defined classification (we are already anti-system, from left, right, etc..) Without anything that can not be captured, dismantled, occupied, reported … Let’s be as open as possible, in as many places as possible, in other countries too. The more we advance in this direction, the stronger we will be and exemplary for our fellow citizens, and invulnerable to power.

Where should we focus our attention?

We must not aim the wrong targets. This system is maintained because many people support it every day. But its structure is crumbling and its failure and ineffectiveness is beginning to be known.        We must not waste our energy to fight for his fall. It will fall by itself. We can focus our attention on something more useful and necessary, like developing new models. Because if everything collapses … are we to fall back to prehistoric times?
We must build a social movement with new business models, organizational and social relations, culture, spirituality, new models of education, health, etc.. There’s work to be done. This is where we must put our energy and not use it to fight a system that has lost all meaning and is already dead.

The different forms of violence

Besides physical violence, which is its most obvious and “visible” form, violence can take many forms: there is violence when there is economic exploitation, political violence when citizen participation is violated, religious violence when one imposes ones beliefs or whenever there is fanaticism, institutional violence when there is abuse of authority and enactment of unjust laws, cultural violence when other cultures are marginalized, gender violence when discriminating by gender, generational violence when, because of age, the individual loses his/her rights, and one must not forget the very common emotional abuse. 
Non-violence is not only against acts of physical violence but also it is against all forms of violence. Pacifism is generally focused on the rejection of physical violence.

Contribution to “non-violence” of the long distance working group.

Publisher: Committee drafting Vallecas Distrito VA and Villaverde, near Madrid newspapers. Contact: redaccion@distritovillaverde.


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