Mass demonstrations in Spain spread across Europe
Published Jun 5, 2011 9:54 AM
Young demonstrators behind police barricades in Barcelona,
Photo: acampadabcn, Angel Garcia
May 30 — Demonstrations and occupations against the capitalist crisis,
austerity and mass unemployment continued into their third week across Spain,
sending ripples across the rest of the continent as other young people and
workers organized protests and encampments in solidarity with the revolt that
ignited on May 15. It’s now called 15-M.
Demonstrators occupied more than 70 city squares throughout the country, and
similar actions were reported throughout France, Italy and Greece.
Every day thousands of mostly young people pack Puerta del Sol —
Madrid’s most popular main square — for rallies, assemblies and
other mass actions. On May 15, youths, workers and the unemployed gathered for
large demonstrations across the Spanish state against the capitalist austerity
measures advanced by the Spanish government. These measures include wage cuts
for public workers, freezing pensions, raising the retirement age and more.
The conditions workers face are staggering unemployment that sits at 21.3
percent for the general population and around 45 percent for people age 18 to
The demonstrators also demand democratic reforms, for example, in the election
laws and an end to rampant corruption.
On May 27, police attacked the encampment at Plaza Catalunya in Barcelona,
attempting to clear the square using batons and firing rubber bullets into the
crowd. More than 100 demonstrators were injured, some of them requiring
hospitalization. Cops tore down signs that had been hung around the square and
hauled off computers and other materials that organizers were using to build
The cops’ pretext was that the square in the country’s
second-largest city needed to be cleared before a big soccer match between FC
Barcelona and Manchester. Together, these teams have a combined worth of nearly
$3 billion. Beyond serving the interests of the super-rich capitalists who own
these teams, the police attack on the Plaza Catalunya occupation was meant as a
warning to the masses of youth and workers who dare to rise up and fight back
against the conditions of capitalism.
Hours after the police attack, demonstrators defiantly retook the square.
Demonstrations and marches in solidarity with Barcelona’s youths took
place throughout Spain, including one of 20,000 people in Seville, the
country’s fourth largest city.
On May 28, peoples’ assemblies were held throughout different
neighborhoods of Madrid. Demonstrators planned for these assemblies to discuss
important questions about tactics, strategy and formulating more concrete
political demands. Various documents and resolutions in which activists have
attempted to develop a political program for the 15-M movement have been
circulating, but nothing has yet been formally adopted.
Organizers had initially said that the occupations would conclude on May 29.
But at a mass assembly held Sunday evening in Puerta del Sol, demonstrators
decided by consensus to continue the occupations indefinitely. While
participants were conscious of the difficult logistics of maintaining a living
space together with a political meeting space, they also knew that the whole
world was watching Puerta del Sol.
Another assembly has been set for Sunday, June 12.
The youth and workers of Spain are waging a bold struggle, one needed now more
than ever. Profit-hungry bankers are looking to collect on their debts and are
stealing more and more from the working class while imposing devastating
austerity programs, not just in Spain but around the globe.
One, two, many Tahrir Squares
The mass uprisings that rocked Egypt, Tunisia and countries throughout North
Africa and the Middle East starting in January and the tactics used there
helped inspire the developments in Spain. These in turn have served as a
clarion call to all those fighting the attacks on the public sector. Young
people across Europe have answered this call and built demonstrations and
encampments in many other cities on the continent.
In France and Italy thousands of young people rallied and began occupying city
squares against the austerity measures being implemented by the governments
there and in solidarity with the encampments in Spain. Police attacked
demonstrators in Bastille Square in Paris.
In Greece nearly 40,000 young people and workers demonstrated in Athens’
Syntagma Square on May 29, the fifth consecutive day of protests there. Major
cities throughout the country have seen similar protests over the last
The previous day, the All Workers Militant Front (PAME) organized
demonstrations in major cities against the austerity measures there in
coordination with other trade unions including the All Farmers Militant
Coalition, the Federation of Women in Greece and the Students’ Militant
These demonstrations in Greece come as the government there has been discussing
a massive sell-off of state-owned industries to satisfy the terms of a bailout
package the country was forced to accept last year from the International
Monetary Fund. Greece faces a new round of austerity that the European Central
Bank wants to impose to ensure collection of interest on loans to the Greek
With protests set to continue in Spain, and others growing across the continent
and the world, these hopeful signs point to the emergence of a truly global
fightback against austerity and the globalized capitalist crisis.
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