Occupy Congress: Madrid

We talk to journalist Begoña Gómez Urzaiz about the Spanish situation as protesters threaten to storm the Parliament and clash with the police

Image from Roarmag.org

This evening, thousands of Spanish protesters have gathered around the Parliament in Madrid to voice their anger over the government's austerity policies. The Spaniards are suffering from welfare cuts, and there's a 50% youth unemployment rate. Over 1,000 police officers are present to guard the Parliament, and violent clashes has broken out between out. We spoke to Spanish journalist and Dazed contributor Begoña Gómez Urzaiz about the situation...

The recession obviously hits all the generations but numbers show the young are a new underclass, with over 50% of unemployment

Dazed Digital: What's the mood in Spain today?
Begoña Gómez Urzaiz: The mood is exalted and angry, specially now that we are witnessing the police brutality, but I also get the feeling there is some "indignation fatigue" and even "protest fatigue". I don't think the protests today gather as much support as the Indignados movement did last year. Some analysts say this fatigue partially explains the re-emergence of the independentist movement in Catalonia, where I live.

DD: Is it especially the young who's suffering from the financial climate?
Begoña Gómez Urzaiz: The recession obviously hits all the generations but numbers show the young are a new underclass, with over 50% of unemployment.

DD: What are the protesters demanding?
Begoña Gómez Urzaiz: This protest has been brewing virally for months, a message has been circulating on Facebook calling people to surround the Parliament building "until its members sort thing out". Twitter is also playing an important role. You could say the ruling party in government, PP, is completely missing the point comparing it unfairly with a coup d'état or a putsch and recalling 1981, when the military tried to overrun the then very young democracy. They're also obviously behind the totally unjustified violence that the police is using to try to control the protest. All and all, what is going on shows the absolute lack of prestige of the ruling class, since it goes against the whole Parliament, no matter their political affiliation.

DD: Do they feel let down by the politicians? Why?
Begoña Gómez Urzaiz: Absolutely. Both this government and the previous one have shown complete lack of direction. And almost every day a corruption scandal erupts in a local or regional body of government. It results in the classic feeling of "they are all a bunch of thieves and liars". Even European institutions are unpopular now, with a curious anti-German feeling growing (Angela Merkel is often depicted as a cruel stepmother forcing the South to starve), which is really new. Europe used to be the one club that the Spanish really wanted to belong to.

DD: What do they feel needs to be done to improve living conditions?
Begoña Gómez Urzaiz: Austerity is hitting Spain hard and there is the certainty that citizens are going to lose rights that took so long to conquer.

Come back to Dazed Digital tomorrow for more Spain-related stories, as we will be looking at a new generation of Spanish creatives. Read our interview with Dan Hancox about his latest book, Utopia and the Valley of Tears, HERE

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