May 15 sees the first anniversary of the 15-M protest movement. It was a public protest movement that was angry and fed up with the inaction and corruption of politicians, the bailing out of banks that caused the financial crisis in the first place and those made homeless as mortgage companies had reposed their homes. The latter had lost the roofs over their heads yet still owed the banks huge amounts of money.
The movement started with huge street protests and encampments in Spain’s major cities and town but smaller groups were also to be found in every community. Indeed it was a community movement that coincided with the municipal and regional elections held in May 2011.
The manifesto message of last May was “not a euro more to rescue the banks, education and public health of quality, withdrawal of labour reform, guaranteed access to dignified housing and a universal basic income.”
As the 15-M movement started when socialist PSOE was in government in Spain the opposition centre right Partido Popular tried to jump on the protest bandwagon. However it soon became clear that the PP wanted the camp in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol removed and there were scenes of violence as police removed the encampment in Barcelona’s Plaza Cataluña. In the latter case there is convincing evidence the police acted as agent provocateurs.
Hence it comes as no surprise that now the PP is in government the minister of the interior, Jorge Fernández Diáz, has declared: “in no circumstances will we permit these camps.” It was a clear warning to the 15-M movement that their intention to retake the Puerta del Sol in Madrid and set up other camps in various cities and towns would not be tolerated. “The cities are not campsites,” warned Fernández Diáz.
The world has moved on but the plight of those represented by the 15-M movement has got worse; the banks have received further bailouts; political corruption remains rife, the king’s son-in-law is on trial for misappropriating funds and money laundering with the protests moving from main street to main stream.
15-M has now been joined by other groups such as Democracia Real Ya and all can be expected to stage demonstrations over this period. Their protests are being coordinated online at tomalaplaza.net and via Twitter using #15M and #SpanishRevolution.
It was the foreign media correspondents in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain that brought the news of the 15-M movement to the wider world and have kept them updated on its progress. This led to Spanish residents overseas holding protests outside their country’s embassies and the movement soon spread. The French, Greeks, Portuguese, Italians and indeed Britons, amongst others, would establish their own movements. There are also links to the Arab Spring protests in North Africa.
Since the 15-M movement was born Spain has now had a new centre-right government for six months. Yet what started out as the protests of Los Indignados – The Indignant in town squares has spread to various national protests and a General Strike. The nation is angry and will not be silenced by the threats of a centre right government in Madrid.
(Versions of the above article appeared in The Morning Star, London Progressive Journal, Panorama and other online publications on May 15 2012.)