News / Europe

Inspired by Arab Protests, Spain's Unemployed Rally for Change

People take part in a demonstration in Madrid, May 18, 2011.
People take part in a demonstration in Madrid, May 18, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Lauren Frayer

Thousands of demonstrators are occupying squares in major cities across Spain, protesting high unemployment and lack of opportunities for youth, ahead of municipal elections on Sunday. Many of them say they've been inspired by similar protests across the Arab world.

Protesters have been camping out in the capital's main square for days. Volunteers set up food and medical tents, adorned with homemade revolution posters. Someone pinned an Egyptian flag up overhead.  

But this is not Egypt, it is Spain. Educated but unemployed youth who are frustrated by the poor economy and perceived government corruption have taken over Madrid's main square, Puerta del Sol - inspired by similar youth uprisings across the Middle East.

Pedro Escol, an unemployed scientist with a PhD, surveys the scene around him - piles of sleeping bags, revolution banners and angry youth.

"This situation in the square reminds me of Tahrir Square in Egypt," said Escol.  "We are brothers with them. We are brothers.  We have the same problems."

Escol says he's frustrated. He has a good education, but can't find work. He thinks politicians here are corrupt. And he says he was inspired by what young Egyptians did back in February. They took over a public square for days, calling for change. And it worked.

"Now I understand, that to take a square like [a] symbol is a very good way to force the government to talk about it, because the square is from the citizens.  It's our square."

What started as spontaneous gatherings in Tunisia, and then Egypt, have now formed a blueprint for protests elsewhere - even in Europe. Calls have spread on Facebook for similar rallies among Spaniards living in Germany, the UK and Italy.

James Denselow, a Middle East expert at King's College in London, says protesters in Europe are copying some of the same tactics used in Cairo's Tahrir Square - exercising rights Europeans have had for decades.

"In European countries you've had free legitimate protests as an often constitutionally-protected right for decades, whereas in the Middle East this is incredibly new, which is a reason why it's proving so infectious partly," said Denselow.  "I think there's a feedback loop in the sense that European countries are using lots of the same methods and tactics as groups in the Middle East, no better so than online social networking and Internet tools to organize."

Denselow says that while their political circumstances have been drastically different, with dictatorships in the Middle East and democracies in Europe, some of the economic conditions for youth in both regions are remarkably similar. Some Mideast regimes have fallen, and European governments have had their own stumbles.

"These are educated young professionals who are finding a workplace that is not accommodating them, whether it's in terms of people with degrees or people struggling to pay for their degrees," Denselow added.  "There's been a government brought down in Greece and replaced quite quickly by another unpopular government, and problems in Ireland too. Each country has its own unique characteristics that reflects a reaction to those protests."

In downtown Madrid, Angela Cartagena is a volunteer on the protesters' quite savvy media outreach team, giving reporters tours of the protest camp. She says organizers learned lessons from the supply lines and that sustained Egyptian protesters in Cairo last winter.

"We have a legal commission, a communication one which I belong to, an infrastructure sub-commission also inside," said Cartagena.  "We have a cleaning committee, which I think is very important. They're doing a great job, they're taking care all the time, cleaning the square, everything."

Cartagena says demonstrators are even calling for a Spanish "revolution."

"It depends on your concept of revolution," Cartagena noted.  "This is a kind of democratic revolution, in a sense. Of course it's not a revolution like in the Middle East, the situation is completely different. But we are also trying to make a new democracy. They are trying to get [their first] democracy, and we are trying to get a new one - a different one, a better one."

Spanish protesters are angry about government austerity measures and high unemployment, and their voices are directed at all Spanish politicians, not only those currently in power. But local and regional elections are being held Sunday, and polls predict losses for the ruling Socialist Party. The next general election for parliament, however, is scheduled to be held by next March.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid