Two Months Later, Spain's 'Indignants' Converge on Madrid
MADRID — Two months after they launched a movement against the economic crisis and soaring unemployment, Spain's so-called "indignant" protesters converged on Madrid again on Saturday.
Several cross-country protest marches reached the city's Puerto del Sol square Saturday evening on the eve of a demonstration through the streets of the Spanish capital.
Protesters carrying sleeping bags and groundsheets set off from cities across the country at the end of June, including Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia and Bilbao, to applause from sympathisers.
They have stopped in towns and villages along the way, holding meetings at each stop to spread their message of outrage at unemployment, welfare cuts and corruption.
Madrid residents joined the marchers as they reached the outskirts of Madrid Saturday, while others arrived by car and bus.
Thousands of them gathered in the Puerta del Sol to listen to speakers at a rally Saturday evening, under a huge banner that read "Stop the New World Order."
Other placards read: "The guilty must pay for the crisis," and "Cutbacks for the rich first", and "They call it democracy but it isn't."
"We're here to keep up the momentum of the protests," said Ivan Gracia, 24, a philosophy who student came by bus from the northern city of Zaragoza and planned to spend the night in the square.
"We have to repair the political and financial system," said Emilio Funes, 27, who had driven from Almeria in the south. "Our idea is that other countries also become indignant."
A vast ramshackle protest camp in the square was dismantled on June 12 but the group has since mounted a series of protests, rallying an estimated 200,000 people across Spain on June 19.
The protesters have won broad public support in their fight against austerity measures, a 21.29-percent unemployment rate and corruption-tainted politicians.
Organisers were busy Saturday setting up more tents, tarpaulins and stands in the square.
"We are preparing the camp to receive the marchers from across the country, we are setting up a big kitchen," said Rafael Rodriguez Ballesteros, 56. An unemployed chef, he has been preparing thousands of meals for the demonstrators.
"We have returned to show that the movement is not dead, that it's still alive, despite the holidays."
Many more will arrive by bus from about 30 towns and cities on Sunday, when the protesters will march through the streets of Madrid, with the demonstration ending at the Puerta del Sol.
"In two months, we have had some good responses," said Fernando Carasa, 26, an anthropology student.
"We have stopped about 60 expulsions, created social pressure, achieved a bigger mobilisation than any political party," he said.
The "indignants" have been blocking bailiffs from expelling people from their homes because they cannot pay their mortgages.
Earlier this month Spain's Socialist government set new limits on the amount of money that banks can reclaim from mortgage defaulters in what was seen as an effort to appease the protesters.
The "indignant" movement emerged after protesters set up camp in the Puerto del Sol in mid-May.
It quickly fanned out nationwide as word spread by Twitter and Facebook, bringing tens of thousands of people into city squares around Spain ahead of May 22 local elections.