BBC: Egypt-style rally grows in Spain

by Jerome Roos on May 19, 2011

Post image for BBC: Egypt-style rally grows in Spain

About 2,000 young people angry over high unemployment have spent the night camping in a famous square in Madrid as a political protest there grows.

Fascinating news from Spain, where last Sunday’s protests against austerity and lack of economic opportunity have been sustained and protesters in Madrid today demonstrated for the fourth consecutive day, occupying a main square in the city to demand a future with dignity for students, workers, unemployed, pensioners and citizens of all colors and stripes.

As the New York Times reports:

Thousands of protesters who say they are ignored by Spain’s political class gathered in a central square in Madrid on Wednesday night to demand reforms, despite an effort by electoral officials to impose a ban on demonstrations as Spain prepares to vote in local elections this weekend.

As El País reports, the protesters defied a ruling by Madrid’s electoral board, which had refused to grant permission for a fourth straight day of protests in the Puerta del Sol, a square in the center of the Spanish capital.

The Spanish newspaper explains that electoral officials have good reason to fear that the demonstrators intend to affect the outcome of Sunday’s local and regional elections: “fed up with high unemployment and a faltering economy, demonstrators, mostly youths, are demanding a voting boycott against the major political parties.”

Following the board’s ruling, riot police officers deployed around the square, but allowed protesters to enter after checking their national identity cards, according to a series of updates posted on the English-language section of the El País Web site.

A new Spanish youth group, Democracia Real Ya, or True Democracy Now, inspired by the pro-democracy movements in the Arab world, helped organize the protests, which began on Sunday, using social-networking tools.

As El País explained, the organizers are a diverse lot, yet “so well organized that they put together a security team of 200 people to prevent any trouble during the Madrid demonstration; they also had enough vision to use all the tricks in the book to keep the protest among Twitter’s most popular conversation topics in the world for the entire day,” using the tag #15m, to claim the date of May 15 for the start of their #SpanishRevolution.

The BBC writes the following:

About 2,000 young people angry over high unemployment have spent the night camping in a famous square in Madrid as a political protest there grows.

A big canvas roof was stretched across Puerta del Sol square, protesters brought mattresses and sleeping bags and volunteers distributed food.

The nature of the peaceful protest, including Twitter messages to alert supporters, echoed the pro-democracy rallies that revolutionised Egypt.

The Madrid protests began on Sunday.

On the first evening, police dispersed the protesters, but on Tuesday they let them stay overnight.

Spain’s 21.3% unemployment rate is the highest in the EU – a record 4.9 million are jobless, many of them young people.

Spanish media say the protesters are attacking the country’s political establishment with slogans such as “violence is earning 600 euros”, “if you don’t let us dream we won’t let you sleep” and “the guilty ones should pay for the crisis”.

The atmosphere in the square has been quite festive, with the crowd singing songs, playing games and debating.

They are demanding jobs, better living standards and a fairer system of democracy.

About 50 police officers are deployed in side-streets off the iconic square and outside the Madrid municipal government building.

The protesters are not identifying with any particular political party, Spanish media say, but they are getting more organised.

In another echo of the Cairo rallies that eventually forced President Hosni Mubarak from power in February, the Spanish protesters have set up citizens’ committees to handle communications, food, cleaning, protest actions and legal matters.

The Spanish-language newspaper El País has more reports here, here, here and photos here.

Previous post:

Next post: