Spain's 'indignants' to retake the streets

A year after taking over Spain's streets and squares, sparking a global uprising against economic injustice, the "indignants" are plotting a comeback.

The activists, who once led hundreds of thousands into the streets, are launching a four-day protest May 12-15, ending on the anniversary of the movement's birth in Madrid's Puerta del Sol.

Saturday is billed as a day of global protest across Europe and the Americas, from Madrid, Paris, Athens and London to Rio de Janeiro and New York, home of Occupy Wall Street.

This time, Spaniards have more to protest: a recession, unemployment at 24.4 percent, and 52 percent for the young, and more than 30 billion euros ($39 billion) in austerity measures so far this year.

But Spain's "indignants" are deeply divided over their internal organisation, and struggling for a role as unions take centre stage mobilising huge, near weekly protests.

They also face Madrid authorities determined to stop a repeat of last year's month-long sprawling encampment in Puerta del Sol: a fond memory for the movement's supporters, but an ugly blight for its opponents.

The government has issued a permit for the "indignants" to use the Puerta del Sol for a five-hour protest Saturday and 10 hours on each of the following three days.

But "we are not going to allow encampments, which are illegal," Cristina Cifuentes, an interior ministry official for Madrid, told reporters Wednesday, refusing to comment on reports that 1,000 police would be deployed.

Organisers say they will protest in 80 towns and cities.

In Spain's second city Barcelona, the city hall seems prepared to tolerate an encampment for a limited period.

But Madrid's Puerta del Sol is more important; it is the emblematic cradle of the movement. Activists say four marches will converge on the square Saturday but have not announced plans for an encampment.

The birth of the "indignant" movement in a country where popular protest had seemed muted is still a matter of pride to protesters.

"It was a big surprise, it was the biggest thing that had happened in Spanish politics in years," said 24-year-old activist Rita Maestre of Juventud Sin Futuro (Youth Without Future).

"There we put up our tents, and there was the library," said the tall, dark-haired protester, pinpointing memories in a square now occupied by tourists.

"That was the month I learned the most. It made me realize that there can be a future, that there are alternatives," Maestre added.

Activists say the movement is more active online now than on the streets, but they are ready for a reappearance.

"The situation has not improved: on May 12 we will see that the movement is still very strong," Maestre predicted.

Jon Aguirre, a 27-year-old architect who became an unofficial "indignant" spokesman, was pessimistic about the outlook in Spain, where many young unemployed rely on their families to survive.

"When families can no longer help, we will see what happens: what happened in Greece is not far off," he said.

Conscious of a loss of influence as unions take a bigger role and frustrated by the sluggish, consensus-based decision-making, part of the core Democracia Real Ya (Real Democracy Now) movement decided last month to register the group as an association.

But the backlash was fierce, and many branded them traitors on online social forums.

"A totally horizontal organization did not work," said Fabio Gandara, one of the founders of Democracia Real Ya. "An association is more practical," he told the daily El Mundo.

Antonio Alamino, sociology professor at Alicante University, said the "indignants" had failed to organize and were left expressing a discontent born from social and economic malaise without a concrete ideology.

"The result: lots of small relatively disconnected groups that no longer form a social movement," he said.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute
    Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute

    As US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Regan began its journey to Asian waters amid China’s power flexing in the region, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin would try to hear directly from his US counterpart how far America is willing to go to aid its long-time ally against China’s threatening moves in disputed waters. Gazmin flew to Hawaii last Monday to attend ceremonies for the turnover of leadership of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) from Admiral Samuel Locklear to Admiral Harry …

  • Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level
    Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level

    The water level of Angat Dam in Bulacan yesterday fell below the 180-meter critical level for irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said. PAGASA said the dam’s water level further dropped to 179.98 meters as of 6 a.m. yesterday from 180.2 meters on Monday. The priority is the domestic consumption in Metro Manila, according to PAGASA. …

  • PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid
    PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid

    The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) reported yesterday that an estimated P3-billion charity fund has been allocated by Congress to the agency to provide medical assistance to indigent patients and also give funds to other government offices including the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Crop Insurance Program. …

  • Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila
    Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a demolition crew begins to tear down a squatters' community at suburban Caloocan city, north of Manila, Philippines. Population growth and the lack of economic opportunities in rural areas have driven millions of Filipinos into the squatters' colonies that dot the sprawling metropolitan area in and around Manila. Most of the land they occupy is privately owned, and clearing the dwellings often results in violence. The landowner had offered about $1,344 in …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Mostly down; Thai shares near 2-week low

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most sharemarkets in Southeast Asia fell on Tuesday with the Thai index ending at a near two-week low and the Philippines touching a near four-week low after trade data while ... …

  • China breaks ground on lighthouse project in South China Sea

    China hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Tuesday, a move that is likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing's maritime ambitions. China's Ministry of Transport hosted the ceremony for the construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef on the disputed Spratly islands, state news agency Xinhua said, defying calls from the United States and the …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Thai, Philippine indexes weak after trade data

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets rose in line with the rest of Asia on Tuesday but the Thai index pared early gains after weak trade data in April, while the Philippine benchmark ... …

  • Is your home on top of a faultline?
    Is your home on top of a faultline?

    The Philippine Institute of Volcanoly and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) recently issued an updated and high-resolution "atlas" of the East Valley Fault and West Valley Fault, two major faultlines that run through sections of Metro Manila. Metro Manila may be due for a 7.2-magnitude earthquake within this lifetime, say experts from the institute, among them PHIVOLCS director Dr. Renato Solidum, Jr. According to records, the last major earthquake caused by the West Valley Fault took place 357 years …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options