There are times when an individual framed, beaten and jailed by the police is just a victim. There are other times when that person becomes a symbol of struggle for an entire movement.
This is exactly what is happening in Spain today, which is wracked by 25 percent unemployment, 50 percent among youth..
The person in the spotlight is a 21-year-old fighter from the working-class Vallekas neighborhood of southern Madrid named Alfonso Fernández Ortega. “Free Alfon!” has become the cry in the workers’ movement and among the indignant youth rebelling against their missing future and the austerity program a rightist government is shoving down their throats.
Police arrested Fernández Ortega on Nov. 14, the day of a general strike across southern Europe, as they did dozens of others. But seven weeks after his arrest, he is still in prison. He is the only one still held for his participation in this job action. Without evidence tying him to any weapons, the Spanish state is handling Fernández Ortega with rules aimed at “dangerous criminals” or “terrorists.”
The central government in Madrid has systematically enforced police-state repression against the Basque Country, in the northeast region, where the people have been struggling for self-determination against Spanish imperialism. Now the repression is being applied in more parts of the Spanish state.
Ángeles Maestro, leader of the Red Roja organization, wrote on Jan. 1, “What once fell almost exclusively on the Basque people is now reaching the backs of other peoples of the Spanish state. … Those suffering it are those who stand up against the widespread ruling-class plunder of the working class using the pretext of the economic crisis.”
Perhaps because it was easy to identify with Alfon, perhaps because his mother, Elena Ortega, is herself a worker and fighter and has been campaigning for his freedom; whatever the reason, the progressive movement is supporting the struggle to free Alfon. On Dec. 28, there were demonstrations in 30 cities around Spain and international solidarity actions in London and other European and Latin American capitals.
Maestro added, “The difference between Alfon’s case and those that came before is that now a collective, class response is emerging. It is no coincidence that the epicenter is in Vallekas, the heart of working-class Madrid.” (redroja.net, Jan. 1)
Maestro wrote of a solidarity concert in the Vallekas neighborhood that drew nearly 700 people on Dec. 31 and ended with the entire crowd holding hands and singing revolutionary songs. It was a good sign for the workers’ and peoples’ struggles in the Spanish state, and a reason too for more international solidarity to “Free Alfon!”