Thousands of 'indignants' flock to Madrid protest village
Thousands of demonstrators took to a central square in Madrid on Sunday as a leading protest group known as "the indignants" met to decide whether to carry on their camp-out against political corruption and joblessness.
Crowds flocked to the protest village in the Spanish capital which has over the last two weeks become the heart of the popular protests which have swept the country.
Demonstrators, mostly young people, have been gathering in city squares to decry mainstream political parties, soaring unemployment, corruption and welfare cuts.
"Enough!", "They will not shut us up" and "Earning 600 euros a month is terrorism" were among the signs on display at the open air assembly held at Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square.
On Saturday thousands attended assemblies in 120 neighbourhoods and communes of Madrid. Some drew as little as 10 people others as many as 800.
They were due to decide Sunday whether to maintain their protest village in Puerta del Sol square where hundreds have been camping night and day although in smaller numbers than previously.
"We want to establish movement bases. After that we'll see," said spokesman Pablo Lopez, a 21-year-old student engineer.
Spanish police fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters in Barcelona's Plaza de Cataluna square on Friday as cleaning crews cleared their tent camp.
Organised on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the movement grew rapidly in the days before local elections held on May 22 in which Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist Party suffered heavy losses.
The protest movement has wide-ranging and sometimes conflict demands but it is largely focused on high unemployment, the excesses of capitalism, corrupt politicians and an electoral system which they say favours Spain's two main parties.
But in the absence of a leader, a hierarchy and a platform, the movement is seeking a clear direction for its call for political and economic change.
"Of course we must continue, or else all of this would have been for nothing," said 22-year-old literature student Rita Sainz at the assembly.
"There is a before and after of this protest camp. Now there is a mass of people who are aware of the problems, of the power of collective action. I would like us to stay at Sol until the next general election even if it is just with an information stand."
Spain's next general election is scheduled to take place in March 2012.
Throughout the day representatives of the assemblies held on Saturday in different neighbourhoods spoke at the assembly to outline the proposals made at their gatherings.
The proposals ranged from local concerns such as the creation of more parks to calls for the abolishment of the monarchy.
Participants sat on the ground under a sea of red, orange, black and blue umbrellas that were handed out to help them guard against the blazing sun.
Volunteers sprayed the crowd with water to help keep them cool and handed out plastic cups of water. Other volunteers gathered the used cups for recycling.
"What we are demanding affects everyone. The economic crisis, the social spending cuts. I would like to see protest camp continue," said Alberto Montero, a 37-year-old personal trainer who has helped build infrastructure for the camp and worked at its kitchen as a volunteer.
Jose Ortiz, 57, attended the assembly while carrying a sign that read: "A home and a job without being a slave".
"I am here because I must work two jobs to survive, to pay the mortgage," said Ortiz who works as a security guard at night and as a driver at an old age home during the day.
"Now that we have started we cannot stop."
© 2011 AFP