On Friday 27th May the mossos (Catalunya police) decided to kick in a few heads at the protest camp Barcelona. They came at 7am and said that they had been ordered to clean out the camp for the champions league final the following day. Protesters soon returned to the square; some panting their hands white and holding them up in the air as a symbol that they have no blood on their hands and they are peaceful. Others held up photos of police violence with the message that this brutality is what the police call cleaning. Others held up mops and messages that it is the protesters who are doing the cleaning; their cleaning out the system. As news got out about the attacks on the protesters the camp grew in size. Many protesters claimed that on Friday the camp was bigger than ever. The square was full of people and in that moment and that place in time you could believe that a revolution is possible in Spain.
The movement is often referred to as 15-M because it started on the 15th may. Originally the idea was the work of the Internet site set up in January; Democracia Real Ya! A platform to help organise global actions, with the slogan No somos mercancia en manos de politicos y banqueros (We are not merchandise in the hands of the politicians and bankers). The Madrid protesters were the first to camp out by the 17th there were camps in 30 different cities; making the movement bigger than anyone could have imagined. There is talk in the Barcelona camp about the possibility of camping out for the whole month of June. Originally represented in the media as an opposition to the local elections; something that would go away after the 22nd May. The message from the camp is one of disbelief in the two party political system that does not represent the people. Unemployment is close to 5 million now in Spain and the current PSOE government led by Zapatero is following the same line of cuts and austerity as their European partners. The movement echoes the message of those resisting throughout Europe; Why should we pay for your crisis? Ordinary people are being fed the idea that the state needs to cut back on welfare and education while unemployment is rising and the bankers who caused the crisis are being given millions in bonuses. These issues are some of the many being discussed daily at the protest sights. Democracy in action is being practised through the organisation of commissions and assemblies. Each commission is responsible for looking after a different aspect of the daily camp duties. The communications commission takes care of communicating with the outside world. The kitchen commission needs to make sure everyone’s fed and so on. Issues that are discussed throughout the day are announced by individual representatives and then voted on in the assemblies. As the camp progresses a manifesto is written, making the ideas clearer to understand.
The plaza Catalunya is not the only place where there is a visible opposition, there are many small rallys in the different barrios in Barcelona. Protesters are inventive in their techniques to get others to join. Small groups walk through train carriages telling others to join them in the plaza de Catalunya. Others walk along the ramblas approaching members of the public for discussions and debates. They are yet to win the hearts and minds of the all the Spanish people. The divisions that exist cannot be broken down within a few weeks. Only with time we will know what kind of impact this movement is capable of achieving.
The lack of belief that anything will change does not stop people from enjoying a good party. There is plenty of beer to go round as the beer sellers of the streets make the most of the opportunity to make money. Some of them wearing hippy style bags and dancing to the music. When it gets to 4am and they are still doing theirs rounds it gets a bit annoying having to say no thank you after you’ve spent all your money on beers. Many enjoy climbing up the rope swing and watching others fall off. Others are divided into their own groups, some singing and playing the guitar, others drunk and others discussing politics until the early hours. Others are already in bed, some very comfortable in their tree houses, tents and others under tarp canopies or out in the open with their camping mats and sleeping bags. There is no presence of any security commission. Who is going to defend the sleeping campers from an attack in the night? Within the camp there seems to be a consensus on keeping things quiet. When people start to make noise they are quickly stopped by the sound of shhh! Coming out of the sleeping area. When it gets to 6 in the morning many groups pack up their camping gear and head off to catch the first train home.
Anyone who believes that capitalism isn’t working, that a better world is possible can not help but be impressed by the conscious and compassionate individuals camped out and united against injustice. Many have their reservations on how effective their presence will be in a sea of apathy which becomes more of challenge with the presence of the football fans,who are used by the local police as an excuse to try and violently remove the peaceful demonstrators. Nobody knows how long they will stay or whether it will change anything. At least for now there is a positive atmosphere and the will to continue. This movement alone may not succeed in achieving all the hopes of the dreamers, but at least people are trying to make a change, talking about a change and most importantly; thinking.