Escraches: What’s a citizen like you doing in an escrache like this?

This is the second translated piece on on the phenomenon of escraches in Spain. You can read the first one here.

This piece is by Isaac Rosa and was published 11th April on eldiario.es.

Un centenar de activistas antidesahucio protagonizan un 'escrache' en la casa de la diputada del PP Rodríguez Salmones

Photo: eldiario.es

What’s a citizen like you doing in an escrache like this?

Yesterday I was at my first escrache: the one that the Madrid PAH did outside the home of the Partido Popular deputy Beatriz Rodríguez Salmones, in the Chamartín neighbourhood. That is, I was intimidating and harassing, violently, illegally and antidemocratically, and it was all very nazi.

Well, nazi, to tell the truth, it didn’t seem very nazi to me. I can’t recall the Nazis putting up stickers and then heading off. In fact, I’d say I even got a bit bored, put it down to expectations: you go along hoping for a pitched battle, and then you find people walking on the footpaths, parents with children and even the odd lady who takes advantage of the escrache to take her dog out for a walk. And no, it didn’t look like a nazi dog, if that’s what you’re thinking.

We started off from the Plaza de Castilla, once the police had finished identifying us. We went through one of the richest neighbourhoods in Madrid, singing couplets, putting up stickers and handing out information to residents and retailers, and to the many doormen, who were content to be complicit. We didn’t even cut off the traffic, leaving that to the dozens of riot police who escorted us along the tarmac. When we got to the doorway of the deputy, the police pushed us over onto the opposite footpath, where a spokesperson read out a message, and after singing for a few minutes more, we went off together.

I don’t know, maybe when I got into the metro, once the many journalists (and even the odd foreign TV station) had left, the activists returned and threw stones and Molotov cocktails, but they didn’t quite look the type. People were quite calm, the police seemed relaxed too, not even at the prospect that any moment an enraged former Partido Popular deputy might arrive and rip your head off for being a perroflauta [common pejorative term for demonstrator of perceived bohemian appearance, literally, ‘dogflute’]. To sum up: I went to the escrache without telling my mother, so as not to worry her; and now having seen one, I intend to invite her along to the next one.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it: the rulers and their kindred media outlets ought to congratulate themselves on the calm and civic-mindedness that we citizens are showing. Considering the way in which citizens are being abused and humiliated, with families assaulted on the balcony and dragged outside, and thousands of savers brazenly swindled, it’s admirable how peaceful we remain.

And nonetheless, some of them seem bent on adding fuel to the fire, to see if they can get someone to lose the head and something to end up happening, so as to realise the self-fulfilling prophecy that they usually apply to protests: the demonstrators are violent, so I shall criminalise them and repress them, until they finally end up violent and I can use my “I told you so”.

But I’m afraid that this time it’s gone pear-shaped for them, because the campaign of escraches is proving a perfect demonstration of the collective intelligence of some and the organic stupidity of others.

Collective intelligence on the part of the PAH, which has overwhelmed the governing class with an effective and skilful form of protest: taking the protest to the homes of deputies frames the action and its response in the sphere of the home, that sphere which certain people consider sacred as long as they’re not evicting you. The repeated images of families, children included, thrown onto the street by force with only what they have on them, are so present in the minds of citizens that any tantrum appealing to the inviolability of the home and the protection of children dissolves like a sugar lump. Escraches would have been unacceptable for the majority four years ago; today however they enjoy massive support.

Organic stupidity on the part of the governing class, completely misplaced, and with a six-pack. Engulfed by imaginative forms of protest that break the classic ‘authorised demonstration’ and against which they have only one response to offer: more police, more armour, more fines, more criminalisation, more fear.

When they think they have seen off the escraches, they will find themselves once again engulfed by that collective intelligence that will have already thought out the next step. And that intelligence is proving the best outcome of this terrible time: the ability of citizens to organise themselves, to gather, to reappropriate public space, to protect each other, to laugh at repression, to be autonomous, to be effective, to build community. It isn’t all bad news.

 

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