I'm getting further and further behind with my posts on this blog, a mixture of other commitments, summer laziness, disastrous time management and an occasional inability to write all come together to create this situation. So here is a much delayed post on the 19th June demonstration in Madrid, the last major mobilisation from the 15-M movement.
The march was divided into several geographical "columns" which converged as they got closer to the finishing point, the Neptuno fountain just down the road from the Spanish parliament. I joined the group leaving from the Plaza del Dos de Mayo, which made its way through the streets of Malasaña until it met with another group coming from Chueca close to the Metro station of Tribunal.
This was a meeting of the barrios, the district level groups that have now taken up much of the campaign work since the protest camp in the Puerta del Sol was dismantled. The enlarged group then made it's way up to the Glorieta de Bilbao to meet the sizeable contingent coming down from the barrio of Chamberí.
The preceding week had seen a torrent of propaganda from the right-wing press about how violent the 15-M movement was following some not really very violent at all incidents outside the Catalan parliament. It's worth pointing out that there wasn't even a single police officer in sight until the march united with the Chamberí contingent. Then they put a car and officer in front to control traffic as the larger and noisier demonstration made its way down to the Plaza de Colon. On the way we had to pass the national headquarters of the Partido Popular where a single van of the national police was stationed to deal with the supposedly wild anti-system hordes.
The success of the idea of dividing the protest into columns became apparent in Colon. The part of the march I was on stopped and many took the chance for a welcome chance to sit down on a very hot Saturday afternoon. I wandered across the square to the bottom of the Castellana to see the Northern Madrid column of the 19J just about to arrive. The atmosphere as this column united with the Malasaña-Chueca-Chamberí section was tremendous, and what was by now a march of many thousands set off down Recoletos and the Paseo del Prado.
Arriving in Neptuno there were already people present, although the columns from the south of the city had yet to arrive. Unlike the set-piece protests beloved of the PP and their front organisations, this was a march that started in one place and ended in another; one of the columns from the south covered around 13 kilometres. Many of those in Neptuno took refuge from the sun underneath the huge trees that the combined forces of Aguirre and Gallardón have not yet succeeded in chopping down.
Where there was a serious police presence was in front of the Congreso, Spain's parliament. The access was blocked but in any case a huge banner reading "Respeto" had been strung across this point and a sort of no-mans land had been defined between demonstrators and police. The hopes of Intereconomía and other ultra media groups were dashed as the atmosphere in the demonstration continued to be festive. There was even an orchestra playing. The columns from the south arrived to a fine welcome from those who were already there, and it was clear from the numbers attending that the movement had not lost any of its momentum from that march on the 15th May that finally nailed the idea that Spaniards were not interested in protesting about their situation. Other cities around Spain also saw large protests.
The 15-M movement isn't stopping for the summer, there is still a lot of activity going on in Madrid's barrios and marches of "indignados" have set off from different points around the country, converging on Madrid on the 23rd July. The campaign against evictions for mortgage arrears has forced the issue of home repossessions onto the national political agenda, and the Madrid police are no longer finding it so easy to stop people in some Metro stations based on the colour of their skin. Meanwhile a difficult debate is taking place in Madrid over the way to coordinate the initiatives taking shape in the barrios without compromising the democratic principles of the movement as the focal point of Sol has moved more into the background. The movement mutates and adapts in unpredictable ways, a reflection of that horizontal structure.