Minute by Minute of Northern Route, 23rd July, Madrid, 2011 – by an Anonymous Reporter
Before diving straight into a minute by minute report, it would be wiser to give a brief introduction into the context surrounding the events that are taking place in Spain. Media coverage outside Spain, and some would even say inside Spain, is rather hectic, short and biased. Press releases were made during the famous Acampadas across Spain yet many of these were ignored by mainstream media and preferred to give their own version of the events.
In any case, let us move on to the so-called “marchas indignadas” or as the BBC calls them: March of the indignant
– which is in my opinion a terrible translation! The beginning of such marches seems to be rather spontaneous but soon many cities followed. It is a proposal of “pacific, non-violent and social mobilization that tries to add up the constructive, democratic, pacific and inclusive spirit of the 15M movement”
. People have been marching from distant places such as Cadiz and A Coruña, which means over 600kms walking during a month or more. These marches are not to be interpreted as “a simplification of a protest, but rather as an extension of it”
because along the different towns where these marches passed through they wouldn’t simply eat and sleep. They would organize and moderate local assemblies to assimilate their concerns and strengthen the network of local and neighbourhood assemblies as well as Acampadas that have sprung up in Spain as a consequence of the 15M movement.
At least 6 routes are detailed in the webpage quoted earlier, but the column, that is the groups of people marching from different cities, converged in these routes. When the 23rd of June, the day that all of these routes converged in Sol, was approaching; I got news from the Northern Route. This route was started in Bilbao
, but there were other columns from Navarra and Cantabria there too! I decided to give this route coverage on their day in Madrid, since whenever the media talks about a Vasque and a Madrileño, they sound like worlds apart. The reality I saw was different. There was brotherhood on the night of the 22nd when the Northern Route arrived at Parque del Norte, even the stereotype of the hardened and rough Spanish northerners crumbled into pieces when people told me that there were tears in the eyes of tough and long-bearded northerners when meeting fellow protesters at their meeting point.
On several occasions I have referred to the 15M movement, however I do not have time or the resources now to expand on defining this civic and political movement. Suffice to say that it is very similar to Anonymous in my opinion. Anyone can be ‘15M’. As long as you comply with the pacific, non-violent and anti-party stance; you will be welcome. Diverse platforms have been present at AcampadaSol and the debates and Assemblies organised across Spanish towns and neighbourhoods. Platforms that stand in opposition to the privatisation of utilities such as water in Madrid
, all the way to international campaigns such as the Freedom Flotilla Two to Gaza
With all this said, on the morning of the 23rd of June, I unfortunately woke up late due to travelling exhaustion. But I worked my way to Parque del Norte in Madrid to meet people from the different neighbourhood assemblies of Madrid’s Northern District and of course, our colleagues from the Northern Route.
12:06 – I suddenly hint what could be a camp in Parque del Norte once I reached the top of the park. Indeed at least a 40 strong tent camp had been established during the night of the 22nd. I make a rough estimation of 100 people there at the time, chatting, resting or simply having fun. There are two big tables full of food and a volunteer providing therapeutic massages to those who are in most need of them.
12:18 – One of the coordinators from the neighbourhood Assembly of Bº del Pilar (which was in charge of organising infrastructure at the Park and receiving the march in collaboration with other neighbourhoods of north Madrid) tells me that they are setting up the audio to begin an Assembly.
12:35 – The Assembly begins, it was initially intended to be narrative, allowing the people from the Northern Route to share their experiences with all of us, however there were other important points ahead that dragged us
. During the Assembly I am told by one of Madrid’s coordinators of all the Marches that the Northern Route had in fact arrived on the 22nd, ostensibly ahead of schedule. Another colleague from a neighbourhood Assembly in Madrid tells me that on that night they stayed up until 03:00AM chatting, setting up the camp, and showing fellow protesters from the Northern Route actions that have been taking place in Madrid such as stopping evictions by Banks who want to retake houses at any cost regardless of the mortgage prices or social drama
. Also videos from the multi-ethnic neighbourhood in Madrid called Lavapies were shown, in which the neighbours expelled the National Police Force by non-violent means when they were accused conducting racial profiling and arrests.
14:20 – The Assembly is over and everyone is offered a nice plate of food, there is vegetarian and vegan food available as well. People sit in groups, anything from 3 to 10, to chat about politics, their personal experiences during the march and the like.
16:10 – An Operative Assembly
begins to coordinate the dismantling of the Camp, organise logistics (cars to transport materials and food), pick up litter around the park and finish off the banners.
17:48 – An improvised and eco-friendly drum line has been organised, by reusing plastic materials. It sets the tone for a festive yet politically charged march towards Sol which is about to start.
18:30 – We have marched for almost an hour, and when closing into Plaza Castilla, the Northern transport hub of Madrid, several neighbourhood Assemblies (amongst others Chamartin Norte
) greet, cheer and run towards us to meet us. Chants of “collective hugs” lead to a circle of 50 or more people from diverse background hugging each other as if there were no tomorrow.
18:41 – The frontline of the demo swiftly makes a turn and decided to take over the central traffic lanes of Paseo de la Castellana. Previously we were only marching on the right hand side of the avenue, which meant cutting off two traffic lanes. The central avenue consists of six lanes, three on each direction, which are now blocked by the demo. The police had no reaction and simply carried forward.
19:20 – We are approaching Nuevos Ministerios, mostly known for the density of large commerce. I am also informed that another neighbourhood Assembly (Prosperidad
) is waiting for us down at Gregorio Marañon.
19:48 – Indeed the Assembly of Prosperidad was waiting for the Northern Route at Gregorio Marañon. At least 20 people and a big banner from their Assembly were waiting for us in the middle of the street.
19:52 – We finally move out of Paseo de la Castellana and we move over to the street Miguel Angel, according to the already agreed route.
20:15 – I roughly estimate at least 500 people present at the march, it has been growing in numbers ever since I first met them at 12:06.
20:22 – We reach Alonso Martinez, from here on the march moves around more residential and/or festive areas and without much traffic to care about.
20:45 – We reach Gran Via and sit down for 5 minutes to cut the traffic and spare some time so we can get to Sol near 21:00. Tension and excitement is building up, everyone is ready to hug, cheer and meet people from all over the Iberian Peninsula and other countries to share experiences.
20:55 – Impatience builds up as we slowly move through Montera street, which leads into Plaza de Sol. Chanting is non-stop, singing “We’re not all here, there are routes yet to come”
20:58 – We finally take decisive action to move towards Sol through Montera.
21:05 – The Northern Route finally enters Sol to meet thousands more of protesters, again chants of “collective hug” are heard and people embracing each other, some of them even in tears due to tiredness, excitement and whole load of emotions many can’t even express.
21:35 – A Narrative Assembly begins in Sol. I am already knackered so I decided to leave and I believe any more information regarding such a special day in history has been neatly recorded somehow by our colleagues from AcampadaSol
There were many cameras following the Northern Route, and I am fully confident that our fellow artistic protesters will do an incredible job in pulling all of that together into an astonishing video. Just give them time, and meanwhile I hoped you enjoyed this.