Thousands of protesters started to gather in a central square in Madrid on Sunday, May 15th, to demand reforms, despite an effort by electoral officials to impose a ban as Spain prepares to vote in local and regional elections this weekend. Gatherings started to spread all over Spain, and rapidly in major cities across Europe. Are we facing a Spanish revolution? What reforms do they want? Can we expect these protests to spread throughout the Western Hemisphere?
A new group, Democracia Real Ya (“True Democracy Now”), inspired by the pro-democracy movements in the Arab world, used social networks to help organize the demonstrations, which began on Sunday. The group, whose manifesto has been translated into English, called for demonstrators to occupy Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and other main squares in cities across Spain until Sunday’s elections. Despite efforts by Madrid’s police force to clear the square, hundreds of protesters were still camped in the square on Wednesday. According to officials in Madrid, about 20,000 people attended the first protest in Puerta del Sol as thousands more rallied in more than 50 other Spanish cities, including Barcelona, Valencia and Seville. Some of the clauses of their manifesto include:
- The priorities of any advanced society must be equality, progress, solidarity, freedom of culture, sustainability and development, welfare and people’s happiness.
- These are inalienable truths that we should abide by in our society: the right to housing, employment, culture, health, education, political participation, free personal development, and consumer rights for a healthy and happy life.
- The current status of our government and economic system does not take care of these rights, and in many ways is an obstacle to human progress.
Protesters kept gathering in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square Thursday to demand jobs, economic equality, and “real democracy” in the fifth day of protests that mimic the Middle East uprisings. Puerta del Sol in Madrid is now the country’s Tahrir Square, and the Arab Spring has been joined by what is now bracing to become a long European Summer -a new banner now graces the square: “People of Europe, rise up.”
Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s ruling Socialist Party said they were “alarmed” by the protesters, fearing them to be disaffected left-wing supporters who would abandon the party on election day. Mariano Rajoy, leader of the conservative Popular Party, which is expected to make huge gains in the elections, said he understood the protesters’ motives.
These gatherings are expected to last at least until Sunday. Demonstrations and gatherings are being held during this weekend in major cities in Latin America. New York City will hold a gathering Saturday on Washington Square at 12:30 pm to show support to the Spanish protests.