this square is not the Pope’s

The emblematic Central Madrid has turned into a vibrating site of proactive politics again.

2 August 2011, a few minutes before sunrise. It was the second day in the national holiday period for the masses and the city was almost empty. Everyone wants to scape the scorching summer temperatures, but some 15M “indignant” protesters remained still camped. They had marched from all over the country to bring their voice to the capital city. After 2,5 months of pacifist protests since the movement began, riot policemen decided to take action. They evicted the grass-roots information booth and the few tents from the protest camp with premeditation and nocturnality.

This Governmental shift has boosted the general outrage of a movement that was getting ready to hibernate for the summer; it has resurged now instead of September. For the past three days, policemen were told to block Plaza del Sol, emblematic public space for the demonstrators, and where the 15 May movement for real democracy was born. If the whole public square was turned into a massive protest camp since May, now it is an over-controlled empty void, a sort of Bastille-fortress. The same policemen that used to prevent anyone from camping outside the square are now preventing anyone from entering. No civil person has been allowed in the square: the absurdity of controlling a political symbol. The subway nodal station has even already been closed down for a total of 24 hours; trains do not stop at Sol.

Counterproductive as it has proved, blocking public space from people to express their ideas has only strengthened them. Even the policemen trade union (SUP) have publicly considered today Sol’s blockade as a political mistake. Madrid Central has turned from a consumption and commerce hub into a space for debate and consensus. Several surrounding squares (not sieged by police forces yet) like Jacinto Benavente, Mayor, Callao, Cibeles, Pontejos, Atocha have been spontaneously taken over to celebrate bottom-up meetings. Critical issues are being discussed, proposed and questioned: financial crisis, citizen participation, politicians’ corruption and abuse of power… The politics of public space are more active than ever and back to the very origins of Greek agoras: open places of assembly. In Valencia, Tenerife or Madrid, squares that have housed these protests are now commonly referred to as the 15M Square. Even main streets like Madrid’s Gran Vía have been turned into people’s parliaments after stopping car traffic at night. There is an urgent need for real debate; power structures need to listen.

Only 10 days left for the Pope’s bombastic visit to Madrid and the global Catholic Youth Encounter (JMJ). They are to be largely funded by the Government of our secular country in one of the worst moments for national economy. Madrid authorities start to take action in order to show global pilgrims that there is no trouble among its citizens, but tension is heavily felt everywhere. During the Papal visit, the same streets that now function as sites for political expression and debate will house hundreds of temporary confession booths, where Catholic pilgrims will be able to confess their sins in every language.

Meanwhile, 15M “indignados” claim that this square is not the Pope’s (“esta plaza, no es del Papa”). Yesterday, riot policemen started to brutally attack for the first time, beating pacific protesters: 20 injured. Today there will be gatherings and demonstrations claiming again for Real Democracy NOW in most Spanish cities around 7 pm.

[images> August protests in Madrid by Carlos Rosillo (Mayor, Preciados, Alcalá & Cibeles), Alberto Martín (Gran Vía), Samuel Sánchez (Preciados, injured & Jacinto Benavente), Kiko Huesca (Parliament), Dani Pozo (Preciados), Emilio Naranjo (Sol), Uly Martín (Sol)]




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