Spain's 'indignants' rally a week ahead of election
Hundreds of Spain's "indignant" demonstrators marched through the streets of Madrid Sunday to protest spending cuts, high unemployment and political corruption, a week before a general election.
Protesters marched from outside Madrid's central Atocha railway station under an overcast sky to Puerta del Sol square, the birthplace of the movement, behind a large black and white banner that read "Change the Model Now!".
"We have to stop the privatization of public services like health care and education, we need to protect our social services from spending cuts imposed by the markets," said Juan Luis Artero, a 24-year-old university student.
"They will not shut us up," and "No to corrupt officials" were among the signs on dispay.
One group brought a cardboard guillotine which they suggested should be used on corrupt politicians.
Another carried a black cardboard coffin with a figure representing the leaders of Spain's two main political parties which they said represented the impending death of bipartisanship in Spain.
"The two main parties are the same, they are both chipping away at public services, they divide the spoils among themselves," said 46-year-old Pilar, who was one of the protesters carrying the coffin and who refused to give her last name.
Political columnist Josep Ramoneda said the "indignant" protesters have had little influence on the campaign because the conservative opposition Popular Party have a wide lead over the ruling Socialists in the opinion polls.
"In this campaign they have little weight but it is a very peculiar campaign because in reality it is a false campaign, the dice have been cast, everyone knows what the result will be and as a result people are following the campaign with little interest," said Ramoneda, who is not part of the movement.
Many of the protesters at the rally rejected this argument.
"I think the 'indignant' movement has already had an effect on people's conscience," said 50-year-old Miguel Jete, who wore a brown cap over his shoulder-length hair.
"We will see the impact it has had in voter support for smaller parties and in a rise in people casting blank ballots," he added.
Another protester, 43-year-old Elisa Reyes, said the turnout at Sunday's rally did not reflect the wider level of support which the movement has had in Spain.
"For each person who is here, there are thousands at home who could not come who agree with us. Our strength does not come from the numbers on the street, it comes from being right," she said.
Spain's "indignant" protest movement was born when thousands of people set up camp at the Puerta del Sol ahead of May 22 municipal elections.
A vast ramshackle protest 'village' in the square that included everything from a canteen to a kindergarten and a library was dismantled by demonstrators under pressure from the authorities.
But members of the movement have since staged regular, overwhelmingly peaceful protests that in some cases draw tens of thousands.
They have also staged regular "popular assemblies" in many neighbourhoods where issues are debated and proposals are put forward to attempt to affect change at the local level.
In Barcelona about 30 members of the movement decided at an assembly Saturday to camp out in the central Plaza de Catalunya until the general election on November 20.
They have also set up an "information point" in the port city's main square on voting options and the workings of the political system, but without advising on which party to pick.
© 2011 AFP