Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Day Of Reflection

Arriving with some friends at the Puerta del Sol just a few minutes before midnight, we made it just in time for the "grito mudo" moment of silence that marked the beginning of the day of reflection before voting day. Although we didn't get into the square, at least not for a while. The Puerta del Sol last night was completely packed, and until some people started to leave we couldn't get closer than 60 or 70 metres from the entrance to the square. Once we did get inside it wasn't as if we could go anywhere. Not that this is a complaint, every night in the square has seemed to bring bigger crowds, following each successive attempt to ban the protest.

The significance of the grito mudo was of course the fact that the assembly in Sol was technically illegal once the day of reflection had begun. Supposedly on this day there should be no acts of electoral campaigning and as I blogged yesterday the Junta Electoral has decided that the protests fall into that category. An interpretation of the law which is hugely controversial, and yet another example of the all too frequent practice here of stretching the law to achieve a largely political objective. Reform of the judiciary is one of the topics that quickly comes up in some of the debates taking place in Sol.

In any case, there was thankfully a very muted visible police presence in Sol, and the orders of the national government are that the police should not intervene unless there is evidence of serious offences being committed. The Sol protest has remained absolutely peaceful and disciplined. This has infuriated the right-wing press who clearly think a bit of old style riot cop discipline is what is needed. People need to be beaten into being obedient democrats. Since we're on the subject of the right-wing media, I'd love to know why the front pages of ABC and La Razón today are not considered to be electoral propaganda? Fool that I am, in my naive belief that what applies to the ordinary citizen can be expected to apply to powerful media groups. 

This is not the first time that there have been protests in Spain on a day of reflection, there are some echoes of the spontaneous demonstration on the 13th March 2004 as it became clear that Aznar's government were attempting to maintain the fiction of ETA being responsible for the Madrid bombings until after people had voted. I'm not sure how much of that protest ever got shown on Spanish TV, I watched it live on CNN and it was a dramatic, tense afternoon. There are differences now, Madrid in those days of 2004 was in shock after what had happened. The similarity is there in the sense that the protests around Spain reflect a huge sense of disillusionment with those who govern them.

The "acampada" in the Puerta del Sol continues today and it's likely that there will be another huge turnout tonight. Tomorrow we'll see what happens, it's not clear whether those camping in the square will decide to prolong the protest after voting day or change to other campaigning tactics. Nor is it clear whether the national government will attempt to break up the protest tomorrow. The impact of the the week's events has gone beyond anyone's expectations a week ago and the traditional end of campaign rallies by the political parties last night ended up being something of a sideshow. As a final note, here's something else to be indignant about. I read this morning that the parties will get a 9% increase in their state funding this time around for the votes they get and their elected councillors. How about that for a bit of belt tightening in the midst of the crisis? I'm off to Sol to do some reflecting.

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