An old man, passing by, took the loudspeaker in one of the many afternoon meetings at Puerta del Sol and vented his anger and frustration; too small pension a to live on, very expensive rent, fear that his grandchildren won’t have a future and lack of democracy. Everyone has something to say, something to demand and, above all, the opportunity to express it. The atmosphere is festive also. The occupation of a central space in Madrid and the defiance of the prohibition to do so gives a sense of empowerment to people who never normally have a say in how things are run in society.
Since the 15th of May thousands of people have been demonstrating in the Puerta del Sol square to demand real democracy. The square, which is just a little smaller than the pitch at Croke Park, has a capacity for 30,000 people. The attempt of the Spanish Electoral Board (Junta Electoral) to prohibit demonstrations and the constant pressure from right wing media and politicians to disband the demonstrators by using force has only helped to increase the number of people in the square.
The media generally claim that democracy is respect for the law and that you can have your say by voting once every four years. But this type of so called “liberal democracy” rea ched its limits long ago and the people don’t feel represented. The chanting is loud and also long; “qué no, qué no, qué no nos representan” (they don’t represent us). From time to time the protestors also address the media: “Televisión, manipulación” which needs no translation.
During the day people of all ages circulate around the stalls, take part in meetings or assemblies, or discuss in small groups. Wherever you go, you hear people expressing their anger and frustration against salaries of between €600 and €1000 per month, high levels of unemployment, and the fear of being fired… But they don’t stop there. It is not a matter of replacing one party by another in the government; the problem is the system, capitalism, the dictatorship of the markets, the bankers and the big corporations. They are the ones represented by the political parties of the establishment. That is what you can hear all around.
The media is constantly guessing who is behind the protests. There are prejudices against politics among the youth and the old and they want to exploit them by demanding a non-political protest. They fear, of course, revolution. But the protests are political because they are about power, about popular power. Many protestors argue: “No somos antisistema, somos anticapitalistas (we are not antisystem, we are anticapitalist)”.