Something in the Air

Found ourselves in Puerta del Sol on Thursday as the crowds gathered. People of every generation coming to the square although clearly led by young people – Spain has 27% unemployment and over 50% of all young people are unemployed. We were told that young graduates couldn’t even get menial jobs, much less jobs that use their newly acquired knowledge. Police stood in clumps around the edge of the square, fully armed but laid back, watchful but not interfering. The tents, the stage, the sound systems, the cameras – all were being put in place. Even the roofs of the surrounding buildings were requisitioned for camera positions and the heroes climbing up them were cheered enthusiastically by the crowds below. The square was soon covered in placards – ‘Plaza Tahrir’; ‘No bread, no peace’; ‘Bring back democracy’ – and the mood was intense but not intimidating. That evening, we emerged from the theatre about 9.30pm and had to cross the square once more to get back to our hotel. It was almost impossible – you had to wait and let the flow of the crowd carry you across – thousands and thousands of people, with all the young speakers on the stages being loudly cheered by the older audience who are clearly in full support – they have apparently been bringing them food, arranging to look after the children of the demonstrators and generally providing every kind of practical support – every demonstrator is someone’s child and the cross generational support has been unstinting. There appeared to be a full social mix among the demonstrators – the usual sprinkling of new age ‘hippies’ and self-professed anarchists but mostly just ordinary young people, all angry at what the banks have done to their country and to their lives. In the morning, I had walked over to a young man sitting on the ground preparing his equipment for the day. He was about mid twenties, with beard and dreads. ‘What’s happening?’ I asked in my best English-Spanish. He looked up and gazed at me with war-weary eyes, considering his response. ‘Revolution’ he said.

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