Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Virunga Park chief shot

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algerian election: Bouteflika votes in wheelchair

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algeria's media: a mixture of censorship and free speech

Read more

DEBATE

Algeria: What's the Choice? Incumbent Bouteflika Votes in Wheelchair

Read more

WEB NEWS

Nigerian web users call for end to violence

Read more

FOCUS

Bitcoin in the US: A monetary revolution?

Read more

ENCORE!

Fast cars and slow trains

Read more

WEB NEWS

Chile: online mobilization to help Valparaiso fire victims

Read more

FACE-OFF

François Hollande: France's most unpopular president

Read more

  • Russia and West agree on steps to ease Ukraine crisis

    Read more

  • Low turnout in Algerian election tipped to return Bouteflika

    Read more

  • Hundreds still trapped in sunken South Korea ferry

    Read more

  • Nobel-winning Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87

    Read more

  • Deadly attack on civilians sheltering in UN base in South Sudan

    Read more

  • With a strong French presence, veterans and fresh faces, Cannes aims to please

    Read more

  • Eurostar train delay "chaos"

    Read more

  • Chelsea Clinton says she is pregnant

    Read more

  • French troops free five aid workers kidnapped in Mali by Islamists

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • After cup defeat, Spanish pundits read last rites for Barcelona

    Read more

  • India heads to polls in single largest day of voting

    Read more

  • Ukraine talks open in Geneva as Putin talks tough on TV

    Read more

  • Pro-Russian separatists killed in attack on Black Sea base

    Read more

  • Man executed in Texas for 2002 triple murder

    Read more

  • Scandal-hit French doctor Jacques Servier dies at 92

    Read more

  • Belgian head of wildlife reserve shot in DR Congo

    Read more

  • Crunch talks on Ukraine begin in Geneva

    Read more

  • Stagehand of God? Maradona's legendary goal inspires a play

    Read more

  • US rolls out red carpet for French critic of capitalism

    Read more

  • N. Korea not amused by London hair salon's Kim Jong-un ad

    Read more

  • Real Madrid beat old foes Barcelona to lift Copa del Rey

    Read more

  • France's new PM targets welfare in drive to cut spending

    Read more

  • Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

    Read more

  • Brazil club Mineiro cancel Anelka signing after no-show

    Read more

Europe

A day with Madrid's 'Indignant' youths

©

Text by Mehdi Chebil

Latest update : 2011-05-27

Thousands of protesters have taken over the heart of Madrid, setting up a semi-permanent camp to demand greater economic equality. FRANCE 24 takes you into the daily life of a movement that could trigger a European wave of peaceful uprisings.

All eyes have been on the Spanish capital’s iconic Puerta del Sol square since a May 15 demonstration against political corruption and economic hardship turned into a permanent occupation. Up to 60,000 protesters filled the square last weekend as Spain’s ruling Socialist Party lost to the conservatives in several local elections.

The sprawling encampment, made up of colourful tents, tarpaulins, battered mattresses and sofas, has kept on spreading despite a lower turnout for nightly rallies. Since then, a number of commissions dedicated to tackling infrastructure, communications, logistics and legal matters have sprung out of the early organisational chaos. The leaderless movement has set up an impressive system to cater to the weary protesters’ every need, from providing food and drinks to sun creams and foot massages.

Arab spring, European summer?

Has the democratic spirit embodied by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts crossed the Mediterranean? Madrid’s “indignados” – the “indignant ones”, as they call themselves – are mostly young people infuriated by a lack of economic prospects and a political elite they consider out of touch. Just like their North African counterparts, the protesters use social media to coordinate their non-violent protests, including massive sit-ins and the permanent occupation of symbolic squares.

But the Madrid protest camp is not Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The Spanish youths’ anger against the system is more diffuse than the Egyptian wave of fury that swept Hosni Mubarak out of power. You won’t find a dummy corpse of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero hanging from a lamp post in Puerta del Sol. The Spanish demands are more difficult to articulate, ranging from calls for specific electoral reforms to a pan-European rejection of government austerity plans.

There is no sign of the protesters coming under siege from regime forces, either. A few relaxed Spanish police officers stand guard in front of the old post office on the southern edge of the square – a stark contrast to the tense and ambiguous military presence in Cairo.

How to keep the momentum rolling

The non-confrontational atmosphere in Madrid has had a direct impact on the protesters’ motivation level, and organisers are trying hard to keep enthusiastic volunteers busy by setting up even more “commissions”.

The Art Commission provides materials for drawing and making banners, sometimes under a cloud of cannabis smoke. But there is no trace of marijuana in the improvised organic garden set up by protesters near one of the square’s fountains, where only legitimate vegetables are in evidence. A small library tent is packed every morning with people reading daily newspapers, provided free of charge. As for the enticingly named Espacio del Amor (Love Space), its main activities are tai chi and meditation sessions.

Our economic situation 'a disgrace' say young overqualified, underemployed Spaniards

Although the momentum appears to have slowed since last weekend’s mass demonstration, a sense of optimism still prevails among the thousands of protesters calling the makeshift camp home.

But many here in Puerta del Sol are hoping their movement will ripple across the continent. The question on everyone’s lips remains…will the Arab Spring be followed by a European Summer of discontent?


 

Date created : 2011-05-27

  • SPAIN

    Spain's Socialists suffer drubbing in local polls

    Read more

  • SPAIN

    Thousands take to the streets to protest over unemployment

    Read more

  • SPAIN

    Demonstrators defy weekend protest ban

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)