They’re peaceful, non-political protesters, who simply want to get their message across. But they’re infuriating governments all over the world. What’s more, a leading French sociologist tells FRANCE 24, the “indignant” movement is here to stay.
From Madrid to Athens, through New York and on to Paris: the “indignant” movement has been springing up all over the Western world, and is far from subsiding. It began as a youth protest on May 15 at Puerta del Sol in Madrid, and most recently, emerged as the “Occupy Wall Street” protest in New York.
On Saturday, it just got bigger. “United for Global Change” protesters took to the streets of almost 1,000 cities around the world to denounce what they describe as “an intolerable situation” for young people in the financial crisis. “We will peacefully demonstrate, talk and organise until we make it happen,” reads the website. And they mean it.
Sociologist Monique Dagnaud, who heads France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, has been following the campaign since it began five months ago. “An unprecedented movement,” she believes it will evolve into a lasting headache for Western governments, and could even have an effect on upcoming elections, including France’s presidential poll next year.
What do these various movements all have in common?
Monique Dagnaud: They’re largely young, educated, and desperate to demonstrate their resentment for a society which they deem elitist and corrupt. They all operate in a similar way – they occupy symbolic squares and streets for a prolonged period; they’re hugely active on social networks; they don’t have a group leader; tasks are shared out and decisions made unanimously.
There are differences from country to country, depending on the economic situation in each. In Spain for example, young people are protesting against the unemployment rate, because 40 per cent of 25 to 34-year-old graduates don’t have a job.
The Greeks, on the other hand, while suffering high unemployment too, are focusing their efforts on the Troika [the IMF, the EU, and the European Central Bank], which is the driving force behind their government’s strict austerity measures.
As for the Americans, they’re condemning the capitalist system, symbolised by Wall Street.
Why has the movement failed to really take off in France?
Dagnaud: Firstly, because unlike in Spain, young French graduates do usually end up finding a job. [In a survey compiled] in 2006, for example, some 74 per cent of university-educated 25 to 34-year-olds were employed in a white-collar job in France, while only 59 per cent were in Spain.
Secondly, because [unlike in many other Western countries], there are a number of far-left movements already in place in France – the Left Front, green movements, Trotskyites etc – which tend to absorb these kind of people [who would otherwise join the ‘indignant’ movement].
Could the movement affect presidential and general elections taking place in Spain, France and the US next year?
Dagnaud: In total contrast with traditional youth movements, these activists clearly don’t want to become politically active, which is why we haven’t seen any leaders emerge.
Nonetheless, the protesters as a whole could play a kind of lobbying role during election campaigns. Their presence is sure to make candidates might feel pressured into giving more weight to young people’s issues.
Does this movement have a future?
Dagnaud: I’m absolutely sure of it. As long as these people have a reason to protest, they will continue to do so. And seeing that a reprieve from the financial crisis, or an improvement in the situation for young people, is nowhere in sight, then it looks like they aren't going anywhere.
PARIS TAKES ON 'UNITED FOR GLOBAL CHANGE' DAY
World champions in demonstrating, the French didn’t miss their chance on Saturday, when “indignant” movements around the world gathered to voice their anger over “greedy fat cats” and the “ruinous” capitalist system. All photos © Sophie Pilgrim/ FRANCE 24.
This man is bravely divulging his monthly salary, which, as he points out, works out at 13 euro centimes per minute (around 11 pence GBP or 18 cents USD). ©SP/ F24.
The procession made a stop outside French bank BNP Paribas – Europe’s biggest – to denounce its “gluttonous” practices. One of the protesters listens to organisers lambasting the bank in front of its ubiquitous four-star logo. ©SP/ F24.
When a group of young Communist supporters were told they’d have to join the back of the parade because their flags were obstructive, they booed and chanted “We are ALL indignant” at the organisers. ©SP/ F24.
Sylviane is a regular at demonstrations. She uses the metro air vents in the pavement, running from one to another along the march trail, to create some kind of security tape art form. It certainly attracts attention. ©SP/ F24.
“Peace, justice, now!” Another protester ruining the view of Paris’s famous Opéra from the BNP Paribas offices. ©SP/ F24.
A young accordionist and his impressive glasses join the parade. The younger demonstrators were surprisingly chic for political activists. ©SP/ F24.
“We’re the 99% - Occupy France,” reads the poster on the right, referring to the outstanding 1% of people who own most of the wealth in France. On the left: “You have the right to remain silent and let their money speak for you.” ©SP/ F24.
When a pair of designer-clad men approached the protesters shouting “traitors” and “long live President Sarkozy”, they were politely told to pipe down. ©SP/ F24.
Communist flags shadow France’s Bourse, or stock exchange, which was described as “the temple of capitalism”. “Bravo!” One megaphone-equipped participant shouted towards the historic building. “You’ve made loads of money… But look what you’ve done with it!” ©SP/ F24.
The word solidarity reached new levels of popularity at the march. “Greece, Spain, all indignant, all for solidarity,” reads this banner. ©SP/ F24.
One of the organisers holds up a banner reading “austerity, tax, let’s not get ourselves fleeced by finance”. The fat cat is saying “Who pays my debts makes me rich”. ©SP/ F24.
Date created : 2011-10-15