Spain, seems to be a country that is still shaping itself. Somewhat like a nation that wants to come to terms with its past, unlike many other countries that have gone through a traumatic history and have finally emerged through the political passions – admittedly misdirected – of their distant past. Spain seems like it is yet to come to terms with a civil war that forged its legacy in millions of Spanish minds and the future generations of the country. The fascist forces that staged a coup, and consequently, went on to purge about 150,000 of its citizens in summary executions, far surpassed some of the worst dictatorships that the world has witnessed, including that of Pinochet’s in Chile and of Videla’s in Argentina.
The mainstream Western media that celebrated the democracy movements in the Arab world not very long back, is relatively silent now. For, then it was the Arab youth’s striving for the ‘western values’ of democracy that it was celebrating. Now that the cry of ‘democracy’ is arising from its very midst, it does not seem to quite know what to do. From May 15 on, for almost two weeks Madrid and other Spanish cities have been witnessing some of the largest demonstrations in recent memory. Protesters have thronged the Puerta del Sol, virtually camping there. As government forces started cracking down, demonstrations began to grow in an ever expanding scale spreading to many other Spanish cities. When the government moved to ban demonstrations on May 20, in the run up to the regional and municipal elections, the protests acquired an even more militant form. A ‘snapshot’ of the rallies in defiance of the ban:
The initial protests against the planned multibillion euro bailout plan for banks, austerity measures and against high unemployment almost 45 percent among the youth), according to reports, were not very large but when the government responded by arresting several activists and demonstrators, things started going out of hand. That was the ‘spark that lit the prairie fire’. As Ryan Gallagher’s report in the New Statesmanput it:
A demonstration against the arrests was organised in the city’s main square, Puerta del Sol, and numbers soon snowballed when word got out over the internet. What began as a group of fewer than a hundred activists reached an estimated 50,000 within less than six days.
The protesters whose arrests had sparked the initial demonstration were released and immediately returned to the square. By the time they arrived, the demonstration was no longer just about their treatment at the hands of the police. It was about government corruption, lack of media freedom, bank bailouts, unemployment, austerity measures and privatisation.