Tens of thousands of indignados bring Madrid to a complete standstill in a spontaneous and defiant bid to reclaim Puerta del Sol from the police.
It was to be expected. When municipal and national police evicted and destroyed the 15-M information booth at Puerta del Sol this morning, destroying the spiritual heart of the protest movement (including the banners, pictures and pieces of art which had been so painstakingly collected over the past 2,5 months), they knew they were in for a ride.
That’s why they came with 300 of them, in 20 armed vehicles, blocking off the entire square and taking absolutely no chances whatsoever that the indignados would come back in larger numbers to reclaim the square. All day long, they kept the square hermetically sealed off, even closing the Sol metro station — one of the largest and most important in the city.
But what happened tonight — in fact, what is on display right now, as I’m writing this — came unexpected even for myself. Given the unbearable heat of summer, most madrileños generally flee the city to the countryside in the month of august. This is probably why the police only made their decisive move now, instead of a few weeks ago. They expected less resistance than before.
But tonight, it looks like no one ever really left Madrid. Tens of thousands of people have completely blocked Madrid’s city center in a spontaneous outburst of indignation at the disrespectful removal of protesters from the movement’s ground-zero. At 20:00, thousands of indignados were crammed into all six access routes to Sol, with a genuine army of police (including at least 50 vans, according to El País) keeping them out.
When they realized they couldn’t take the square, the protesters quickly dissolved into a dozen side-streets and regrouped on a number of key locations: Cibeles, Atocha and Congreso, among them. For hours now, protesters have been blocking all the main traffic arteries in the city center. The mass protest is now reported to be headed back towards Sol for a second time, in another attempt to take back the square.
One Spanish journalist, writing for El País, just Tweeted that the situation is becoming increasingly untenable. “How are they going to stop so many people all trying to access Sol from the same access route?” Apparently the protesters are chanting furiously “let’s evict the police camp!” The atmosphere, according to journalists contributing to this live blog, is extremely tense, with hundreds of police in full riot gear being forced back by the sheer volume of people present.
It was always stupid to try and kick the protesters out of the square. Just as we wrote before, during the violent attempt to clear protesters off the main square in Barcelona two months ago, these type of actions tend to backfire and blow up right in the face of the authorities. Today’s eviction gave the movement exactly what it needed: another symbol of injustice to fight against, another cause behind which to rally — in this case, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
Either way, the result of the government’s folly has been to galvanize the movement at a time when most people considered it dormant. The eviction of Sol even sparked Barcelona back to life: tonight, the popular assembly at AcampadaBCN decided to re-occupy Plaça de Catalunya for at least one night in solidarity with the indignados of Madrid. Similar actions are being sparked in cities across the country.
We will get back to you tomorrow with the latest news on the backlash — and the epic attempt to take back Puerta del Sol from the authorities.