15 Reasons to take to the streets this 15th October

These pictures are of Madrid on 15 May, the day of the protests that gave birth to the 15-M movement. We plan to celebrate our 5-month anniversary with a coordinated global protest, in over 800 cities in more than 70 countries (and counting…)

As Irene Lozano said in ‘El Pais’ yesterday, really, the question is, what reason is there to stay at home? But if if you’re still not sure whether to take to the streets today, here some of the reasons why the 15-M Sol Economy Assembly is marching this afternoon.

Because you’re sick of this!

We’ve spent 3 years waking up to bad news every day, only to find it’s even worse the next. The financial ‘gurus’ say that 2012 could see another recession. Who can believe, then, that the the savage cuts we’re suffering are working?

Because you want work, not charity!

Work is a right. With an army of unemployed, employers pay less. In Spain there are 4,336,744 unemployed people. In the world there are over 205 million (that’s where they’re counted.)

Because they’re exploiting you!

25.4% of Spanish workers suffer from precarious working conditions. More than 2 million have suffered abuse in their workplace, and in 2010 there were 737 deaths through accidents in the workplace.

Because you’ll have to close your business!

While the biggest companies are able to access public and private financing, many small and medium-sized companies find their credit supply cut off. More than 200,000 small and medium-sized companies and 300,000 self-employed workers in Spain have ceased their activities since the start of the crisis.

Because you’re not studying for this!

More than 136,000 people with tertiary education qualifications have emigrated from Spain because they’re unable to find work here. The unemployment rate for under 25s is 46.5%. Don’t let them take away our future prospects!

Because health is not a business!

The health cuts have started. In Catalunya, the number of hospital beds has fallen by 30%, while there are 40% fewer surgeons. As a consequence, waiting lists have increased by 23%. Even though more than 200,000 people lack medical cover in Spain, the public health system is good, and is cheaper and more efficient than many other countries’ private systems. Keep the markets out of hospitals!

Because education is the best investment!

Education cuts = worse education = an ignorant population that consumes more and asks fewer questions! The new school year in Madrid has started with 2,500 fewer teachers and 14,000 more students.

Because a family needs a home to live in!

Since the start of the crisis, more than 350,000 families have been evicted from the homes they rent or ‘own’. In Spain, debtors need to keep paying their mortgage even though their home has been repossessed. Meanwhile, housing has become an object of speculation, and having a roof over one’s head is no longer a right, but a business. There are more than 100 million homeless worldwide.

Because the bank always wins!

Spain’s public savings banks are being sold at rock-bottom prices, having been run into the ground and then receiving € 20 billion of taxpayers money in bailouts. The banking system, to a large extent to blame for this crisis, stays above water through cheap credit and public money, while rewarding itself with scandalous salaries and bonuses. Rodrigo Rato, new head of recently privatised Bankia, will earn a salary of €10,15 million a year.

Because you don’t get a millionaire’s pension!

While the directors of the bailed-out banks that caused the crisis are assured millionaire’s pensions, the rest of us are burdened by a pension reform that means we have to work for longer and receive smaller pensions. Through false alarms about the sustainability of the public pension system, we are urged to make up the loss with private plans (managed by those that have already left us ruined). Don’t fall for it!

Because the rich don’t contribute!

Spain’s tax law favours its wealthiest citizens, but even still, those who can defraud the State or transfer their money to tax havens and avoid contributing to the public purse. Fraud and tax evasion count for a loss of over €80 billion annually. The Botin family (Banco Santander) hid €2 billion in Swiss accounts.

Because you came to improve your life!

More than 40% of immigrants in Spain work without social security for paltry pay. 42% of police checks are carried out to detain immigrants based on their skin colour and facial features. More than 16,500 people are imprisoned every year in Immigrant Internment Centres (CIEs) without having committed any crime, and many of them suffer mistreatment.

Because dignity cannot be bought!

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. We will not succumb further to consumerism and media distraction while we are subjected to cuts. We are not merchandise in the the hands of the financial markets. We will not forget that we are the ones who create wealth.

Because we want to recover our sovereignty!

The financial powers have provoked a crisis from which they are profiting spectacularly, and are setting out a road map for governments to ensure that we pick up the pieces. We demand that as citizens we participate, our basic needs are met and our fundamental rights are guaranteed.

Because an unjust system is NOT sustainable!

2% of the world’s population possesses more than half the world’s wealth, while a third of the population lives on less than $1 a day. 1 billion people suffer from malnutrition, for the most part women and children. 884 million live without access to potable water, and 2.6 billion lack minimum sanitation services. 13 million people die annually due to atmospheric pollution.

These are a few of the many reasons we have to make 15 October an historic day. What are yours?

Take to the streets! Create a better world!


Off In Search Of The Great River Copake

Another photo from the USA visit, at our next stop: Uncle Will and Aunt Jo’s abode in Copake, Colombia County, New York. We had been searching for the Great River Copake, but marshy thickets forced us back to the garden before we could find it.

I took the pic with my MiniDiana, with Fuji Superia 200 film again.

Vermont Interlude

I haven’t blogged for a while now. I blame it on the days being too short for the amount of stuff that I try to fit into them.

When we’re not at work, Mely and I been spending much of our time with the 15M movement, marching on demonstrations or in assemblies and social forums in Madrid’s plazas and parks, debating the latest injustices with the 15M Economics group or the indignados in our neighbourhood. And the summer holidays brought no respite… well, how would they? Every day brings a new reason to take to the streets. The powers that be haven’t stopped trampling over democracy and making the poor and middle classes pay for the greed and recklessness of the financial industry, so we haven’t stopped protesting!

I did enjoy a brief break; a late summer visit to the USA, spending time with family. My chief preoccupations were concerned with the combination of ice cream flavours I would have for dessert, or whether indeed I had room for two helpings of ice cream, thus easing the ice cream flavour decision-making process. My only regret was that Mely, who was starting work at a new job (with a full-time  contract!), couldn’t join us.

This photo is of the duck pond at the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont, taken after a brisk dip in the outdoor pool, on the way back to the cabin where grandparents were waiting with dinner and a warm fire with marshmallows to toast.  I took the pictures with my MiniDiana in half-frame mode, using Fuji Superia 200 film. The only digital manipulation was sticking them onto a black background in phototoshop.

¡Indignado! #spanishrevolution .02

'Voces de 15M' photos by Gianfranco Tripodo

A couple days after the Silent Shout, Mely and I were walking around the tent city / revolutionary republic of Sol when we chanced upon a guy who had set up an impromptu photo studio consisting of a white canvas backcloth draped against a shop wall. The photographer, Gianfranco Tripodo, told us he was taking portraits and inviting his subjects to write a message; the voices of the 15 de Mayo protests.

As it looked like something I would have thought of, if only I hadn’t been thinking about other things, I was keen to take part. I think I look pretty serious… slightly menacing even. I stood against the canvas wearing what I guess was a cheerful  and slightly vague half-smile, but Gianfranco said I didn’t look very indignado, so this is my best “We mean business” expression.

The story made the Sunday magazine of El Pais newspaper (I’m in the top-left corner on p48, sharing the page with seven other indignados). It is a bit strange to be the model rather than the photographer, but I’m proud to be a part of it.


“I came to the demonstration on the 15th of May and I’m very impressed by how things have evolved since then. A movement that is a flame in the darkness is being created. I hope it continues growing and continues evolving so that we really change the capitalist system in which we live.


We Will Be Silent No Longer: #spanishrevolution .01

A 20% unemployment rate and rising.

43.5% youth unemployment.

Pensions frozen. Age of retirement raised (and the years of contributions required to receive a pension extended). Redundancy compensation reduced. Spending on public services slashed. Public sector salaries cut. Private sector salaries frozen if you’re lucky (but bonuses for the bankers). A million unsold new houses. Vast swathes of land, ghost cities, scarred with the shells of half-built apartment blocks and grids of streets that are slowly being reconquered by vegetation. Hundreds of thousands of homes repossessed (and in Spain your debt isn’t wiped out when the bank takes your house). Shiny new airports opened to great fanfare (and expense) which have yet to receive an aeroplane. Relationships between bankers, politicians and developers that have long been far too cosy. 80 candidates in the recent local and regional elections who were under judicial investigation for corruption.

For coming on three years, Spain has been reeling from the financial crash and the hangover from the consequent implosion of a two-decade long property and construction bubble. The economy has flatlined and the vultures circle overhead as they eye up the next potential victim of the sovereign debt panic that has swept through Europe’s periphery. As the austerity measures imposed to keep the vultures away bite harder, working Spain (and unemployed Spain, and retired Spain) tightens its belt yet another notch and stoically surveys the devastation wreaked by casino economics. A few big winners and a great many losers.

¡Basta Ya! For too long we complained alone, in small groups, among friends, that things were looking bad and getting worse. In April we started to grumble out loud. On the 15th of May we began to shout. Indignant, we could take it no more. They tried to silence us, but we shouted louder. They tried to remove us from the places we had congregated, but more and more of us joined in so we could remain firm and stand tall and defiant.

We chanted and sang for hours and nights on end to keep our spirits up.

Angry and determined:

¡Que no! ¡Que no! ¡Que no nos representan, ¡Que no…!   (They don’t represent us!)

To a catchy, easy-to-chant tune:

¡Lo llaman democracia y no lo es! ¡No lo es!   (They call it democracy and it’s not! No it’s not!)

To an up-tempo techno beat:

¡Vue-stra cris-is no la pag-a-mos!   (We won’t pay your crisis!)

To the tune of the Spanish version of ‘Ten green bottles’:

Un banquero se balanceaba, encima de una burbuja inmobiliaaaaaria,   (One banker was balancing on top of a property bubble,)

Cuando veía que no se caía, se fue a llamar a otro banqueeero.    (When he saw that he didn’t fall, he went to call another banker.)

Dos banqueros….    (and on and on…)

And of course, the protest classic:

¡El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido!   (The people, united, will never be defeated!)

Just because we were indignant, it didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy ourselves, and as midnight approached on the eve of the pre-election ‘Day of Reflection’ – when our protest would officially be prohibited – the singing got louder and the chants got wittier. At 00:00 of the 21st of May all 25,000 of us in the Puerta del Sol, Madrid, and the thousands more gathered in plazas across Spain and outside embassies around the world fell silent, shutting our mouths and waving our hands in the air; our mute shout to the deaf ears of the politicians. And then, as the clock in Sol chimed its twelfth chime, we roared in unison.

And something amazing happened. They heard our cry!

The next step is to make them listen…

Blob Invasion in Plaza Mayor

On weekend evenings Plaza Mayor fills with weird and wonderful characters who try to catch the attention (and a coin or two) of passers-by. Among them is a guy who makes enormous soap bubbles. This is one of the few that escaped the bubble-bursting fingers of small children and floated for a while like a passing extra-terrestrial blob.

Out in the Elements

It’s been a busy few months. I’ve been working three jobs: teacher, translator and photographer – so no time to post photos! The photography work was for Amnesty International, covering the annual assembly of the Spanish section of AI, which was held in Madrid at the end of April. One of the events during the assembly was a march through the city centre waving yellow umbrellas and banners that read “¡No más derechos a la intemperie!” – No more rights left out in the elements!

I expect most of the marchers had been hoping our demonstration would be accompanied by fine spring weather, but heavy clouds had been building all afternoon, and a few minutes into the march the heavens opened and down poured the elements. Not very pleasant for those that didn’t have a yellow umbrella to protect them, but it couldn’t have been more appropriate for the pictures…

For A New Egypt With Human Rights!

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Action by Amnistia Internacional Madrid in Puerta del Sol, Madrid, today as part of Amnesty International’s Global Day of Action in solidarity with protesters in Egypt and the North of Africa.

Making sure we don’t rest on our laurels now Mubarak’s out…