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Protests in Valencia: „One of the best experience!“

Protests in Valencia: „One of the best experience!“


The Spanish movement M15 is not slowing down. Ever since 15 May, citizens have united in protests, established camps and voiced their discontent. We talk to Alberto Pascual from Valencia, reflecting on his experience. He has been involved in the movement since its formation in May.

The first demonstrations have taken place on May, 15th. Three months have passed since then. How have you experienced the protest so far?

The last months have been a very exciting time. I have read the announcement for the first protest on the social media, but I was a little skeptical. At first, it seemed like a small demonstration, without much of an aftermath. But soon, local and national media reported, that protests are continuing. Suddenly, I was curious. I visited the protest camp and assemblies in my hometown Valencia to experience the atmosphere. Then and there, I decided to join the movement.

The first few weeks were very vibrant. We organized a lot of activities: different commissions were formed, there were daily assemblies and we organized many demonstrations. I remember my first time participating in the protest. On May 20th, we decided to 'capture the banks'. It was a symbolic act to show, that we do not agree with the current practice of the financial markets. At first, I was very shy. Nonetheless, I went to the first line and suddenly I screamed like never before! The positive attitude of the people around me, the diversity of ages, and their enthusiasm …it was just incredible! I have never been moved like this: the communion for a right cause was beyond words. I realized, that from this point on, I am a 'indignado'.

In your opinion, why are the people so passionate about supporting M15?

I was aware of the critical situation in my country, especially in my city. Yet, I didn’t know how to achieve change. How do you get engaged in a social movement? I believe that many people experienced a similar hesitation. Then M15 emerged offering a practical way for us to engage. One may say, we were waiting for M15!

M15 woke up a generation who was despised, but who was nonetheless working hard for what they believe in. Actually, the Spanish youth is often labeled as “ni-nis” (“ni estudia, ni trabaja” –neither study or work). This label says the youth is lazy! In the media, we are usually described as a generation only concerned with party and fun, in the expense of our parents' well-being. Well, maybe some people follow this lifestyle; but far beyond that, the Spanish youth is in a crisis. Even with a solid academic background, we have almost no job opportunities. This generation just woke up; determined to fight for change and to chase the real culprits of this situation.

The solidarity is a motivation by itself. I can identify with the people around me: We believe that complaining will not improve the situation, instead we have to stand up! My personal motivation is the vision of people of all ages who have allied to fight for a right cause. A short anecdote may reflect this spirit: During one of the first assemblies late at night, an old women took the megaphone, telling us that she participated in the movement of 1968 in Paris. She compared M15 with the movement of 1968, saying we were yet better organized and acting in a reasonable and efficient way. We were amazed! The whole assembly was quiet for a few moments.

In late July, prime minister Zapatero announced snap elections to be held in November. In your opinion, to what extent did M15 influence this decision? Do you think the government decided for snap elections as it felt pressured by the protests?

That is a hard question to answer. I believe, that M15 played a crucial part. Yet, we are not the sole reason leading to this decision. Zapatero's government is suffering many problems. It may just have been a matter of time, until snap elections would have become necessary. Many issues have exercised increasing pressure onto the government. Of course, the on-going protests are a source of pressure, but also the weakening economy or the high rate of unemployment play a role.

Honestly, the next government makes me fear the future even more. The next government is faced with hard and difficult decisions. It has to solve the crisis. The policies are going to be conservative and hard on us.Hence for me, it does not matter which party will win the election. I am more concerned with the population's attitude: I picture a participative population, not just a herd of sheep. The citizens should not just blindly follow some politicians, but get involved and use their rights to co-determine the course of policy. It is thus very important to elect a government, which represents the whole population. We cannot be governed by a party, which is solely pursuing own interests and profits. Only in that way, a government can tackle the current situation.People should enjoy all political rights; a real democracy. M15 is fighting for this vision and I am supporting this struggle.

Do you think M15 has achieved this vision to certain extent? How did the movement impact daily life?

The most important goal has been to provoke citizens’ reaction. Due to the movement’s initiative, people increasingly participate. You can experience this new spirit at political gatherings, in the media, on the streets, almost everywhere…People have started to discuss and re-think politics. Some like us, some hate us, but at least, they react!

From my viewpoint, this is the most important thing to achieve. People should value politics and engage; it is not sufficient to awake every four years to vote in the elections. We address people and challenge them to discuss. Politics cannot be static, but it should be part of everyday life. We organize protests, direct actions, but also dinner and lunches within the neighborhoods. We embrace the citizens and ask them to care and engage. We hope to effectively influence the political atmosphere.

What did you hope to achieve personally participating in the movement?

Well personally, I hope to bring change into my own city. Of course, there are many pressing issues troubling Spain, or even the world, but I believe that addressing issues in one's hometown is a first step. One main issue is corruption; Valencia is known as a stronghold for corruption. Citizens have to fight against corruption and politicians, who use this practice for own profit. Tourism is an important source of revenue for Valencia. However, I feel that the politicians cannot support the growth of tourism, while forgetting about the citizens. Yet, politicians think they can do whatever they want, such as the knocking down historical neighborhoods. Politics is responsible for the citizens' well-being and thus, accountable for the locals. It would be a great change, if we, the locals, can have a greater say in communal politics and investments. We do not want to be ignored; it's our city after all!

How I personally engage in the movement? I am member of the audiovisual commission in Valencia. We produce TV clips and Radio shows. We are mostly publishing podcast to inform about M15 and our activities. It is important to spread information; especially the neighborhood has to stay informed. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are also important channels we use. I also support other activities, such as protest or direct actions. We need a lot of volunteers to do all the work! Yet, seeing success is a great feeling and motivation.

Thank you for the interview!

The interview was conducted by Vanessa Eggert.

Further Information:

The Protest Camp in Valencia (Spanish)

The Audiovisual Commission (Spanish)

The Flickr Stream of the Camp

The YouTube Channel of the Camp

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