Madrid saw significant riots on Tuesday as police attacked the tens of thousands of protesters who had surrounded the parliament building to protest the introduction of more severe austerity cuts. A WSM member from the Spanish state explains the context, what happened on Tuesday and the demands of 'En Pie', the movement which called the protest.
The platform “En Pie” (Stand up), composed of a diverse group of left-wing political party members and 15M activists, had called a protest for the Tuesday 25th September at 19.00 in Madrid. The intent was to surround the parliament buildings (Congress) in the centre of Madrid, to show that democracy had been “kidnapped” by inept Spanish politicians, and to demand that all politicians inside resign and re write the Spanish constitution. ¨En Pie, Stand Up¨ is composed by a very diverse group of members of left wing groups and 15M activists.
The government called up 1,400 riot police to guard the Congress from Tuesday onward, in order to stop protestors surrounding the building as part of their demonstration. For months now, the Congress building has been cordoned off behind barriers in order to prevent protestors from gaining access to the chamber. On Monday, the Partido Popular (PP) secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal created a stir when she likened the planned protest to the coup attempt by army officers on February 23, 1981.
By Tuesday morning, the air was thick with tension. For weeks, the Spanish Police have been hunting down and arresting activists who have been assembling at parks to organise this action. Organizers of the action were harassed and intimidated by the police weeks before September 25th. Activists were detained, assembly meetings broken up and a cultural centre was raided and shut down. But in the end the call to surround the congress still brought out Spaniards from all walks of life despite the police repression to prevent activists from mobilizing. Although the main Trade Union did not endorse this action, many of their workers showed up anyway.
Protestors were not armed, a lot of people who were participating were families with children, the unemployed and old people. This was what the Spanish government has called a ¨possible coup de etat¨. As the protest began, the tension and anger among the protesters as a result of the police harassment was strong. When the crowds had assembled, scores of riot police wielding shields beat demonstrators as they gathered at the cordoned-off gates of the Congress building. Hundreds of thousand people were gathered there, chanting slogans demanding that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy resign, and the police assaulted the crowd with baton charges and rubber bullets. At last 64 demonstrators were injured and had to be treated by Madrid Emergency Services ( SAMUR). 28 protesters were arrested according to the Police. It is also clear from images and videos posted online that among the demonstrators were undercover police, acting as provocateurs and then arresting protestors who would not leave the area after 9pm.
The police chase continued as protesters ran in all directions. Those been shot by rubber bullets include women and journalists who were trying to film. They police chased protesters down small streets, inside train stations, inside restaurants all around Madrid City Centre.
The Government has sought to minimise the protests, alleging that only 6.000 protestors had turned up. If this were true, it meant there was one riot policeman for every four protestors, which is ludicrous. The government also claimed it was not concerned by the image transmitted internationally. Mariano Rajoy claimed furthermore, absurdly, that since the majority of people in Spain did not protest against the Government’s policies, it had every right to implement them. Few people take this seriously. First, even if a majority of people did not protest, this does not confer the policies with any legitimacy: the PP only received a third of the votes of the Spanish electorate in the past elections, for which it received an absolute majority in parliament. It then ignored its electoral promises, which it had no intention of keeping anyway. Second, given that the police have been regularly beating protestors off the streets, and given that the PP has been gradually criminalising protest and comparing demonstrators to terrorists, part of the reason that the crowds are not even bigger was the fear of State violence.
Protestors complained on Tuesday night that the riot police were not wearing any ID ( which is compulsory in Spain). The police union statement declared that “as regards identification: they are not wearing it and WE SUPPORT THEM NOT WEARING IT WHEN FACED WITH VIOLENT ORGANISATIONS. WE SAY LET THEM HAVE IT.”
Protestors have said that this will not end and they agreed to surround the parliament again on Wednesday 26th September where they were some incidents at midnight.
The movement 25S has called to surround the parliament this Saturday in multiples cities across the Spanish State. There are also to be protests in Portugal, Italy and Greece.
As an anarchist, I have my issues about the demands for re writing the constitution.
It is no surprise we are sick and tired of the those who have robbed us of the few rights we had and who make us feel like burning the parliament down with them inside. There exists an institutionalized mentality which stops the majority of us seeing the possibility of a reality other than the present one. Many people criticize individuals and institutions which form part of the current system because of the way they govern us, but few ever think that it is the system which really determines how we are governed.
The system of representative democracy never has and never will give power to the people. Instead, it gives power to a tiny elite who, while they may very well have honorable intentions to begin with, operate in a context of external economic and political dictates. The rich act according to their own interests, and openly resist our attempts to take the control of our own lives.
Genuine democracy is direct democracy, taking decisions in our own assemblies without anyone taking decisions on our behalf. This can only be achieved by the alliance of workers & students and by the whole working class – those who produce and who are paying for a crisis which has been caused by the political and economic elite (the system).
I present this article in part to protest these brutal attacks against our class. We don’t want to change the chains that bind us, we want to break them for once and for all.
WORDS: Leticia Ortega
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