Indignados stage one of the largest rallies in recent Spanish history to protest against the EU’s imposition of brutal austerity measures and far-reaching neoliberal reforms.
In an incredible display of public outrage over the lack of economic opportunity and political representation, this Sunday saw hundreds of thousands of Spaniards taking to the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and hundreds of cities across Spain and Europe to protest against the Euro Pact, social cuts and political corruption.
19-J, as it has been dubbed by organizers and the Spanish media, marked the movement’s largest mobilization since the initial anti-austerity demonstrations of May 15th organically morphed into the historic occupation of cities squares across the country. As the Financial Times observed, it was the first time that protesters turned their anger towards Brussels.
As El País reported:
19-J beat 15-M. The movement of indignation that, feeding on social networks, began as a spontaneous reaction to the “injustices” of the prevailing socio-economic system a little over a month ago, before transforming into a protest camp and ending in decentralized neighborhood assemblies, yesterday again proved its vitality and, above all, its great ability to channel the feelings of weariness, disappointment, frustration and misunderstanding among an important part of the Spanish population.
The movement’s flagship occupation of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid was dissolved last weekend, but Sunday’s rally indeed sent a clear signal to political elites that the indignados are only growing stronger and more persistent as the youth encampments are transformed into a broad-based social movement.
According to calculations by El País, at least 250.000 people took to the streets of cities across the country, making the decentralized and anti-ideological demonstrations larger than even the most successful labor rallies of recent years. Organizers claimed total protesters amounted to many hundreds of thousands more.
Concentrations were highest in Barcelona, where undercover riot police infiltrated a protest last Wednesday to provoke anti-police violence in an apparent attempt to discredit the movement. According to El País, almost 100.000 people converged in the center of the city:
The 15-M movement in Barcelona shook off the specter of violence which threatened to absorb its energy and undermine the credibility of the indignados. It did so with a peaceful demonstration that broke all expectations and became a new citizen challenge to cuts in health and education, political corruption and the global financial system.
The march, attended by 98,000 people, according to the calculations of this newspaper, is also a setback for those who, like Minister of the Interior Felip Puig, sought to undermine the image of the movement with a minority of incidents caused to Parliament. Puig said that the “peaceful resistance” of the outraged is just a cover for violent protesters and requested that all the accumulated social support and public sympathy for the movement be withdrawn.
In Madrid, tens of thousands of protesters converged upon Parliament from all corners of the city in six large feeder marches.
The main aim of today’s demonstration was to denounce the Euro Pact — an agreement pushed by Germany and France that would impose strict austerity measures and radical economic reforms upon the European periphery in an attempt to improve competitiveness and fiscal discipline.
The Spanish indignados argue that the Euro Pact fails to address the root causes of the crisis while pushing its costs onto those who had least to do with causing it. As an opinion piece in El País astutely observed:
The indignados have once again exceeded all expectations, taking to the streets en masse and displaying the divide between social unrest and political institutions. From 15M to 19J, forces have been building up and ties have been woven, not just at the local level (in the camps and neighborhoods), but among broader segments of society that identify with the widely criticized political class and the financial and banking sector that are responsible for this crisis. The slogan “we are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers” summarizes both demands.