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from zaragoza

One month on

It’s the eve of June 15th, basically one month after the protests that started the mass movement throughout the Spanish state that has been occupying main squares, conducting mass assemblies and rallying large numbers of people for protests, direct actions, self-education and many other activities.  It has been one month of intense activity, on a daily basis. Even for those uninvolved and uninterested the movement had achieved a critical enough mass to be worthy of comment, and media attention, though not always friendly, has been constant.

One month on, it is hard to tell where the movement is going and how it will develop.  Many cities have pulled up the stakes of the encampments, though most of these have continued the assemblies, actions and other organizing work. Quite a few cities though have maintained the encampment at least for the remainder of the week, this includes most of the encampments in the regions of Aragon and Castilla y Leon for example. In our own city of residence- Zaragoza the encampment continues, the thorny debate of when to pull the stakes, change phases, and how to do so has taken time (the camp will be lifted on Sunday-see below). The regular nightly assemblies in our own city still bring together about 200 people, and activities are still ongoing. So even though there is a palpable fatigue amongst those camped out (as many will say) the energy level is still high. Most discussions, both here and in other cites focus on how to shift work in other directions, understanding the encampments as a tactic with their own dynamic and not the movement in and of itself.

In Madrid the stakes were pulled Sunday or Monday morning with some people remaining autonomously encamped in the plaza of Sol.  The call there was to ‘go to the neighborhoods’ and strengthen that decentralized work, while leaving some sort of information booth or stand in the central plaza of Sol.  In Zaragoza the idea was agreed in one assembly a bit over a week ago to maintain the larger political assemblies and citizens’ fora in the central Plaza del Pilar, while a space would be squatted (barring someone getting access to a donated space) to house those commissions that needed some sort of permanent space for their work (archive space, regular internet, etc.) and find some way to make sure that space was open and did not reduce the movement to ‘one more organization’.  Neighborhood assemblies in Zaragoza have also begun, one in Torrero (a traditionally combative neighborhood) and upcoming assemblies in Madalena, San Jose, ACTUR, La Jota, Delicias, and Las Fuentes.

Thus the question is open…with the high-level of tension and emotion around the elections gone, and with a full month of non-stop activity will the movement now sink-in roots to a different phase as the debates are going? Will it peter out from fatigue and local divergence, with a few nodes remaining as strong local referents in their own organizing contexts? Will the movement just become one more ‘civil society organization’ or alternative collective as so many others? Will another moment of high tension –whether an excessive police action against the movement, or announcement of further social cutbacks by the government- regalvanise the energy to yet unseen levels?  This is of course all unclear and the possibilities are on everyone’s mind currently.  What is surprising is the will to go on despite fatigue and the underlying tension, or better put ‘outrage’ that is still palpable.

For example, last Saturday –June 11- saw protests across the country on the day that local and regional governments were to assume their charge after the May 22nd elections (while the day of ‘investiture’ as its called is not the same in every region, it does apply to most of the Spanish state’s territory).  Many of these actions included blockades and direct actions as mayors, city councilors, and regional governors came in cars to assume their charge.  In Valencia this included a police attack on Friday leaving 18 wounded, in Madrid a protest of about 2,000 before the national Congress was followed the next day by an attempt to block the city government’s ceremony. In Burgos, blockades resulted in a police attack. In Zaragoza, a 500-1,000 strong protest did an open-mic citizen’s forum in front of the City Hall, at that point ringed with police. Protestors distributed leftover disposable rain-ponchos purchased for the World Expo in Zaragoza during 2008, the ponchos left in a dumpsite were recuperated as a sign of waste of public monies on an increasingly long list of mega-spectacle economy events.  The leftover ponchos were worn by protestors as well as thrown (there were about 200,000 leftover) at the entrance of city hall, creating a mat or pile that city council members and police would have to cross. A blockade was then carried out aginst the city council members leaving in cars.

Local actions also continue throughout the country.  Today, a 5,000 strong blockade of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona of the ‘outraged’ took place against the beginning of regional budget negotiations.  The regional president had to be helicoptered in. We cite these just by way of example of how the energy around the protest is still flowing despite the current debates and fatigue.

Even internationally, while many of the solidarity encampments seem to have been pulled up, the resonances of the ‘outraged’ (linked to resonances produced by revolts in the Maghreb and Mashreq as well as elsewhere) continue. Greece in particular seems to have taken the baton, with the new rescue package from the EU and IMF being greeted by mass mobilizations taking over city squares setting up camps and even calling themselves the ‘outraged’. In Istanbul, a youth protest camp was also set up just before national elections on June 10, we don’t know if these have continued or spread, but the protesters made direct linkages to the Arab revolts, the youth protests in Portugal and Spain, as well as the current mobilizing in Greece.

This weekend, June 19th is the date everyone is watching. On that day protests are to occur throughout the country against the Euro Pact (a fiscal and monetary pact agreed upon by the 17 Eurozone countries to ‘stabilize’ their economies and ‘reduce the deficit’). The Euro pact would imply more cuts to social services, regressive taxation, pension reform and open the door to a wave of privatizations (in the style of the Greek bailout) The protests have been called by the same platform -Democracia Real Ya!- which called for the original May 15th demos which started the process of the ‘outraged’.  While there are some differences between this platform and the organization of the encampments, the synergies outnumber the divergences for the time being. Some are even calling for this day of protest to be Euro-zone wide or even global (see http://takethesquare.net/) though we’re not aware of the echo this may or may not be having abroad. After the police attack on the protesters in Barcelona, there is now a heavy attempt by the media and political class to delegitimize the movement just prior to this’ weekend’s protests

For the moment the outrage is still pulsing, though the camps maybe pulling up stakes, June 19th will be another milestone and test for the hashtag #spanishrevolution.

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