Inspired by Arab Spring, Spain's youthful 15-M movement spreads in Europe
Young Spaniards railing against political stagnation and high unemployment are protesting in 166 cities across the country and have sparked other protests in Europe.
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“There is a certain arrogance from the country’s leaders. They forgot what happened 35 years ago when we, because I’m one of them, came to positions of power at a very early age. We should recognize that, but I doubt it will happen because they dismiss them as a rowdy group of youngsters,” says Mr. Junco.Skip to next paragraph
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“But logically, the Popular Party will benefit from this. More people will decide to skip this election and that benefits the right."
Polls even before the plaza takeovers already forecasted the ruling Socialist Party suffering a serious defeat, losing towns and provinces it has controlled for decades to the opposition right-leaning Popular Party.
Reminiscent of 1968 France
But the movement's ability to achieve concrete change is unlikely, at least not through plaza takeovers. The protests are heterogeneous and lack leadership and clear demands, aside from a complete overhaul of the political system.
“It’s impossible for a movement without demands to succeed,” Junco says. “It reminds me of May 1968 in France. There is a component of spectacle, but also a great moral expression, a revolution, shaking of the moral conscience, that nonetheless lacks any political achievement.”
The protests began last weekend when police forcefully removed about a dozen tents in Madrid’s main square Puerta del Sol. Inflamed, young people thronged to the square, swelling in number every day, in what is now a tent city the thrives on donations – from food and blankets to power generators – to keep the movement alive.
United in frustrations, divided in message
It has attracted people of all ages and social groups united only by their frustration with the leadership of what many believe is a corrupt elite deaf to the demands for change from the masses.
On the main square, there was an image of a Nazi officer with the swastika replaced by a euro symbol. Slogans were numerous: “This is not a crisis. It’s fraud,” “Don’t vote for them,” “You are all enemies,” “We are not anti-system, the system is anti-us,” and “We will not pay for this crisis.”
There are also posters written in English: “Stop the new world order” and “Democracy is our fight.”
The crowds rose their hands, palms facing forward, chanting: “They don’t represent us. These are our weapons.” Other banged on pots. There was guitar playing, drinking, dancing, and anti-system bashing aplenty.
Just about everyone has a different motive or reason to be there and a different goal. Some want an overhaul of the electoral system, others an all-out revolution, others a reform of the financial system. Some plan to vote, others will cast a no-vote, and most say they will stay away in protest.
“I’m tired of being governed by people who don’t represent me,” says Denis, a political science student who refused to give his last name. "We are all fed up and that is the only thing we have in common. We want our rights back.”
The Electoral Board on Thursday banned a march that protesters planned for Saturday, saying political gatherings are not allowed during the week before the elections. Organizers, however, say they have no political agenda and indeed they are calling for no-vote and criticizing all of Spain’s mainstream parties.
On late Friday, the group voted in favor of extending their plaza takeovers but to avoid clashes voted against a march.