The Pope is coming to Spain soon, to celebrate World Youth Day in Madrid. Some people believe this is the reason that the police violently cleared the Puerta del Sol the other day, turning the central nodal point of Madrid into a site reminiscent of a state of emergency in a Latin American dictatorship. Or a Spanish one. The Spanish Catholic church did, after all, bless the cannons used in Franco’s insurrection against the democratic republic, as Juan Carlos Monedero puts it in a recent book. Whatever the primary motivation (and there are others, such as the present Interior Minister Antonio Camacho acting as bad cop to former Interior Minister and current PSOE Prime Ministerial candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba’s good cop. Incidentally the elections are due to take place on the 20th of November, the anniversary of the death of Francisco Franco.) this is a serious escalation in the struggle between the population (around 80% are estimated to support the 15-M movement) and the ruling elites.
Tonight in Madrid it looks as though what is unfolding is full-blown police repression of what has been a peaceful and non-violent movement since its beginning on the 15th of May. Riot police are making their way through Madrid’s main thoroughfares, beating protesters who have mobilised to challenge the evacuation of the Puerta del Sol. There seems to have been a serious beating administered outside the Ministry of the Interior. It bears emphasising that the sweltering August heat in Madrid makes the sheer numbers of people out on the streets all the more remarkable, given that this is the time of year when Madrid remains starkly empty of people.
There also appears to be a media lockdown. It seems that for the moment the only TV station covering the police violence, as was the case the other day when the police cleared the information point for the 15M movement that had been set up in Sol, was the Venezuelan channel TeleSur. One cannot help but note the mordant irony in the fact that the country whose government had been the object of so much media propaganda in Europe, particularly in Spain, and in the United States for its supposed anti-democratic media policies (even though there are regular calls to magnicide on Venezuelan TV), should be the sole major broadcast outlet covering the police repression of a peaceful democratic movement in Western Europe.
Tweet reads: ‘Why is there a 24 hour RTVE channel that we all pay for if when this is happening in Madrid they don’t tell us about it?’
Tweet reads ‘Scandalous that in the whole of Spanish television there is not a single image or a single report of what is happening’.
Tweet reads ‘People are being told to keep together. Beside me, a lady says: “I haven’t seen this in Spain in the last 30 years”‘
Tweet reads: ‘in Colón (a square on Madrid’s main thoroughfare, the Paseo de la Castellana) a lady of 50 years of age has fallen in front of me. A policeman took the chance to baton her in the ribs. What a hero.’
I hadn’t planned on covering this this evening. What I had planned doing was looking at the declaration made by #AcampadaSol in light of the initial eviction.
Here is the translation:
In response to the closure and evacuation of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, the participants of the Sol Economics Working Group wish to manifest:
1. That it is the right of the citizens of any country to move through and remain in any place it sees fit as long as this does not impinge on the rights of others. To attack and evict those who were waiting in the Puerta del Sol for the clock to strike 8 o’clock, the time a gathering had been called, is improper for rulers who proclaim themselves democratic. These people have not committed any crime by waiting peacefully in the square, and moreover, some of those attacked by the police did not even have any intention of attending the gathering, but were there simply as they would be on any other day, believing that the police was present to protect them and not to attack them. How little respect these rulers have for the citizens!
2. That we deplore the hypocrisy of those who months back accused Acampada Sol of bringing down the takings of the businesses in Puerta del Sol and went as far as speaking of loss of jobs. Since the presence of the 15-M movement was reduced to a small information point, it is obvious that the takings of these businesses did not go down. On the contrary, many people made their way to the Puerta del Sol simply to obtain information about 15-M, our proposals and our calendar of events. Once again, we encounter the scant respect for the truth among our rulers.
3. That Punto Sol was created with recycled material and freely given donations, when truly democratic governments supply the social movements of their countries with far greater assistance than what could have been a little prefabricated venue where the citizens could inform themselves under circumstances appropriate to the type of country that Spain is supposed to be. Naturally, the 15-M movement has many reasons, and now even more, to have contempt for the help of those who simply wish to destroy social movements that could be critical of the direction of the rulers. Once again, therefore, we encounter the poor concept of democracy that these rulers have.
4. That these rulers are friends of evicting the weak and subsidising the powerful, by violating article 5.2 of the Organic Law of Security Bodies and Forces, which maintains that they must ‘prevent, in the exercise of their professional activities, any abusive, arbitrary or discriminatory practice that entails physical or moral violence’, they use hundreds of Police agents to carry out the eviction of people who, out of circumstances through no fault of their own, have not been able to make payment on the mortgage or the rent to the Madrid Municipal Housing Executive, and, even when the payment had been made, were evicted after the date. The image of people evicted who do not have a roof to put over their heads does not seem to matter to our rulers.
In the same way, it is shameful that something so simple as handing back the keys, which is common in the majority of countries, still has to be demanded in the street in this country. And it is even more shameful that the answer from the rulers should be to close the square to avoid protests. How little respect for human life!
5. That our rulers are not worried by unemployment, labour precarity, evictions, and above all and as the cause of the situation, that our economy should be in the hands of ratings agencies and foreign banks because, from their submission to the financial oligarchy, do not dare to demand that the European Central Bank buy up Spanish debt, or that of any other country of the eurozone, at the preferential interest rate offered to the banks who buy the debt obtaining fat profits in an operation that not only does not produce any wealth, but generates more and more poverty. If the Lisbon Treaty does not permit it, why not modify the Lisbon Treaty? Because the only thing that these rulers show is how much respect they feel for the rich banker and how much contempt they feel for the economy of their own country and the quality of life and dignity of its inhabitants.
6. That the only thing that worries our rulers is that it should be seen in the streets that Spain is not going well* and, above all, that the citizens know that the rulers are part of the reason it is not going well.
7. That we will continue to demand our right to peaceful assembly in public places and, especially, in Puerta del Sol, a venue where since the 15th of May there has been a true example of the democracy that our rulers refuse to put into practice, and that we will demand the return of all the graphic materials and documents that were confiscated from the information stall in the Puerta del Sol.
*- in the original, ‘que España no va bien’ – obvious allusion to the Partido Popular’s steamrollering slogan of the Aznar era ‘España va bien’ (Spain is going well)
The police took Sol and lost the streets
They wanted to control a square and they lost the city, said a companion whilst thousands of us made the Cibeles overflow.
Around 10:30pm the thousands of demonstrators who arrived by the different entries of the under siege square at Sol congratulated ourselves enthusiastically: it is incredible, we were saying. In less than two hours we had flooded the Gran Via like an uncontainable tsunami, the Cibeles plaza was at boiling point with the groups that kept on coming, the river burst its banks on the Castellana (Paseo de Recoletos) as far as Atocha, and you could not see the end up the street. ‘The dream is made by hand and without permission’, a girl had written on a piece of cardboard.
The neighbouring streets to Sol had never been so full. Last night, the sun shone through the entire centre of Madrid and the 15 M was inventing the centrifugal demonstration it departs from the point of arrival, it moves by overflow and it returns to the centre of departure from any of the conquered points.
The government declared the state of emergency in the centre of Madrid at 6:30pm. The traffic was interrupted ‘by govenmental order the trains and the metro will not stop at Sol’ -said the loudspeaker-. No-one could enter the square full of the security corps and forces of the State, journalists had their entry vetoed, televisions showed images of the deserted square, taken by the police. Just two hours were needed for the besieger to be under siege. The movement activated its communications, the social networks started its engines, the people turned off the television and went out onto the street.
The movement has not lost Sol. It has been some time since it left Sol to enter our consciences. It seems the government has not taken note, or if it has, it is for this reason that the media bombardment is becoming constant.
Last night RTVE (the State TV channel) in its 24 hour news, on its Web page, announced a
live connection with the square taken by the police. The images, like those of other private media, showed a deserted square. When the system sees itself threatened, the most limpid unanimity reigns. When at 11 thousands of demonstrators arrived at the streets that flow onto the square, the journalists effectively said: ‘we apologise, we have no audio signal, we are sorry’. Technology always fails at the most convenient moments. But the connection was in the streets. The movement was aiming for another score. “We notch this one up to us too, right?” said an impromptu comrade before arriving at Carretas street -of course, it’s one for us, like the 20th and 21st of May, the 19th of June, the 23rd and 24th of July and the 2nd of August is too. “These are my holidays” “I have a month left over at the end of my salary”, “Alert, alert, Botín (head of Banco Santander) is at your door”..each person recovered their homemade signs to attend the call, “The square gets cleaned with bleach and not with police”.
The cleaning services that evicted the information point in Sol early in the hours of Tuesday demolished with diggers the infrastructures, the notice boards, the tables and chairs, the exhibition stands and the artistic expressions of the movement. The news reports said in the morning that there had been removed “according to the municipal figures 26,940 kilos of waste, 17,900 from Sol and 9,040 from the Paseo del Prado“, the ABC daily was more explicit: “27 tonnes of indignado trash“. The cleaning services were obeying the orders of their bosses, the same ones that give instructions to the police, they tore away the plaque that the movement had installed in the square: ‘We were sleeping, we woke up. Signed: plazatomada (the taken square)”. The public powers consider memory to be trash. The term basura (trash) comes from barrer (to brush), in old Catalan it comes from barrejar (to ransack) and in Portuguese to assault. The public powers have acted like in the medieval era, assaulting and ransacking what they considered the symbol of the movement: the square at Sol. Unfortunately for the public powers this country is full of squares, that is, it is full of memory. They wanted to get the measure of the movement and it has been the movement that has got the measure of them.
On the 2nd of August the Puerta del Sol was not a symbol but a metaphor. In the morning the Spanish stock exchange was plummeting, our debt rating was reaching historic lows, the president of the government was suspending his holidays once again, Spain was on the verge of a bailout, the social cutbacks with the new debt rating amounted to nothing…and against a disaster of this magnitude: the government gives the order to take Sol. Where is the threat? Who is on the point of bankrupting the country.
In the morning the media gave news of the police triumph: there has been no violence, the police has managed to evacuate the parquet floors, sorry, the square. Order has been re-established. It seems that the debt rating is no longer plummeting. We have won. Rubalcaba, who is no longer either Minister of the Interior nor vice-president, and who no longer fears being splashed by ‘the trash’, says in a press conference that there should be no fear of a bailout. Rajoy (Mariano Rajoy, head of the Partido Popular) says that he will support the government in any measure it takes, for the good of Spain. Those in the movement have invented a new character: Rubaljoy.
It is 6 in the afternoon on the 3rd of August and a friend sends me a message “it’s groundhog day. The loudspeakers are saying that by governmental order the trains are not stopping in Sol”.There is no doubt that capitalism shows signs of an exhausted system. In economics, the same prescriptions that led to the disaster; in politics, propaganda and repression. In biology an organism perishes when it keeps giving the same answers to new problems.