Spain's protesters vow to maintain momentum after vote

23rd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Protesters in Madrid vowed Monday to keep up the momentum of a movement against soaring joblessness that transfixed the nation for a week ahead of local elections.

"We plan to stay until next Sunday, but we haven't ruled out staying even longer," said a spokeswoman for the organisers at the ramshackle protest camp covered in blue plastic sheets in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square.

Tens of thousands of people have packed the square since the peaceful protests began on May 15, blaming the political establishment for leading Spain into economic ruin ahead of Sunday's regional and municipal elections.

Activists at similar but smaller protests from Barcelona to Valencia, Granada and Zaragoza said they, too, would press ahead with demonstrations despite the end of the elections.

In Sunday's polls, voters punished the ruling Socialist Party for the beleaguered economy and highest jobless rate in the developed world and handed a huge victory to the conservative opposition Popular Party.

As the voting took place, thousands of protesters filled the Puerta del Sol square, the epicentre of the nationwide movement.

"We haven't noticed any drop in mobilisation after the elections yesterday," the spokeswoman said. "We are even better organised, people are coming to help us."

The spontaneous popular protests, slickly organised via Twitter and Facebook, were the largest since Spain's property bubble collapsed in 2008 and plunged the country into a recession.

Even as the economy grew timidly this year, the unemployment rate shot to 21.19 percent in the first quarter, the highest in the OECD club of industrialised nations. For under-25s, the rate in February was 44.6 percent.

Protesters describe themselves as "the indignant", and are known variously as "M-15" in reference to their demonstration's birth date, "Spanish Revolution" and "Real Democracy Now".

On Monday protesters in Puerta del Sol, mostly young people but also some elderly and the unemployed of all ages, attempted to tidy the site along with municipal cleaners, as they received breakfast in the 'kitchen zone'.

"We would like someone to lend us a landline so we can have free phone calls!" shouted one of the organisers on a megaphone.

© 2011 AFP

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