Sunday, June 19, 2011

We visit Madrid protests

Two protests that we visited in Madrid earlier this week. Sol Square where they were protesting for a new society. Or, according to an alternative account, to release some demonstrators arrested at an anti-cuts rally. (Left, a poster advertising this demo disparages politicians and bankers.)

And near our hotel, a housing protest. A developer had disappeared (gone bust I suppose, though this point wasn’t clear to me) with the deposits of hundreds of people who thought they had purchased apartments. They explained the thinness of their numbers by the rest being at a demo. “In Sol Square” I asked hopefully? “Oh no” she said “we don’t associate with them”.

The owner of our hotel thought the Sol protest had finished, and here's a Guardian article from 4 days previously which suggested that indeed it had. But the square still seemed to be pretty much occupied when we were there. Over half the square a labyrinth of improvised tents and makeshift structures. Maybe at its height the protest covered the entire square in this fashion.

We offered both sets of protesters money, but they refused to take it. We signed their petitions, which necessitated adding our passport numbers. Your signature isn't valid without it.

The housing protest. Not associated with Sol
Strictly speaking “we” didn’t offer money to both the protest groups. With the Sol protest Eileen was unimpressed. Couldn't quite go along with this new society malarkey.

A few more details about the Sol protest. Their leaflet (a poor affair not worthy to be scanned and displayed in this blog) answers the question “Who are we?” by explaining that they are volunteers who assembled in Sol square after a demonstration on 15th May “to establish ourselves in order to claim dignity and political/social conscience … We are here because we want a new society that gives more priority to life than to economic interest.” Non-violence is emphasised. The English isn't brilliantly clear. But at least an English version was offered, which is rare enough in Spain. Later I'll explain the difficulties I've been under due to Spanish museums displaying explanations in Spanish only. (I don’t complain about this, I merely comment that it is the case.)

I picked up a handy organisation chart, listing working groups and commissions that the protesters had set up. Working groups dealt with economy, politics, immigration, technology, feminism, and other things that I either can't read or can't translate. Commissions dealt with the organisation and administration of the protest camp - documentation, arts, participation, provisions, legal, health, communication, information.

They have a website in Spanish, which links to a page in English called Take the square.

Here's a flavour of it: "We are the outraged, the anonymous, the voiceless. We were there, silent but alert, watching. Not gazing upward at the powers that be, but looking from side to side for the right time to unite with each other. No political party, association or trade union represents us. Nor do we want them to, because each and every one of us speaks for her or himself. Together, we want to design and create a world where people and nature come first, before economic interests."

I can well imagine the arguments and debates that went into drafting that one! I'm afraid I might have had to dissent from the bit where it says “Nor do we want them to, because each and every one of us speaks for her or himself.”

Above : Eileen at Sol, unimpressed by the prospect of a new society
Below : The information stall at Sol

A council worker (orange jacket) cleans up filmed by a TV cameraman.  The banner draped on the equestrian statue (enlarged below) says "We know the way back". 

An abandoned placard hopes for a secular Europe for all. Not sure what they have in mind with this particular slogan.

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