The spirit that animates our village is very different from the one that houses in the mastodontic buildings all around us. Yet, we too have our languid daily routine. We live like brothers, we do what we need to do, or we lie lazy in the sun. Only at nightfall things can become truly magical. Yesterday I came back from a walk to the royal palace when I saw how the camp was boiling with revolutionary fervour. People came gleefully pounding out into the streets. “To parliament! To parliament!”
The police probably hadn’t been keeping an eye on our friend Robert’s “twitter thermometer”, because they were caught completely unprepared. There are no officers in sight as we parade past the luxury stores towards the Cortes. Not so long ago they were here in full riot gear to block a small group of demonstrators. Now we are a swelling crowd and we can keep walking as we please. “How far wil they let us come?” I wonder. Parliament is already down the street.
Police are lining up at the corner of the modern extension of the Cortes. They have barely covered the side entrance. When we come marching towards them there’s only a handful of officers. Behind them a few vans with reinforcements are only just arriving. Slogans are thundering through the streets. “Revolution with joy!” people chant. The mass only comes to a halt when people touch the toes of the six policemen forming the first line.
I have a certain admiration for those guys when I see how they rigorously maintain their cool in these moments. In particular the commanding officer, a graying gentleman in his fifties with a serious pair of glasses and an equally serious grimace on his face. He has everything under control. He inspires confidence, both to his men and to the protestors. People take their time to sing to the police, face to face, then they sit down and the singing goes on. This is the mass, it’s happy to be united. It bears a grudge against politicians and bankers, but not against the police. Those are our brothers. If someone tries to shout intimidations or insults, then he or she receives immediate disapproval of the crowd.
But the mass remains a beast. “We want to pass! We want to pass! Tonight Assembly in Parliament!” it shouts. And if the enthusiasm rises and something starts to move in the crowd, it goes. The officers put on their helmets. The police chain is put under heavy pressure, and at that point the crowd suddenly seems to realise collectively what could happen, and if that is consistent with its peaceful principles. It contains itself, it retreats, people sit down again.
It would go on to become a festive evening. More and more people keep arriving, the comrades of Audiovisuals take care of the livestream. The normal General Assembly is cancelled because everyone is at parliament, protesting. Instead, a makeshift assembly is celebrated, consisting of slogans and singing and the occasional passionate speech. One of those stood out as symbolic, a speech given by a man who was subsequently known as the grandfather of the Revolution. It was the same man who had encouraged his comrades in the Emergency Assembly held under the rain, to go on. Now he does so again.
“This all started in ’39! It’s still Franco’s men who are occupying the institutions! They must go! We must support the struggles of the youth!” The crowd goes wild. “United, the people will never be defeated!” and “United, the people don’t need politicians!”
There are always two interpreters who translate speeches into sign language. It is wonderful to see them dancing with their arms and their whole bodies as they translate the slogans.
The police are completely at ease by now. A tidal wave of cheers rises when they receive the order to take off their helmets. “Without your helmets / You are a lot more handsome!” the crowd sings. The cops break formation. They start whispering among themselves and laughing. “You are with us! And you know it!”
It’s in the air. It’s possible. Maybe not tonight. But it’s possible. “This is just the beginning!” We can break down the last wall that remains. Not with violence, but by being civilised.
The true heroes of the evening are the comrades of the Kitchen. They run to and fro between Sol and parliament with water and boxes full of sandwiches, cakes and fruit. They have even prepared a salad. Next to me someone puts his hands to his mouth:
“Can anyone pass me the salad please!”
No problem. There it comes. Over all those heads the salad bowl is flowing in our direction.
“Thank you, comrades!”
It’s a magical evening in Madrid. And I’m glad to come across Alicia later on in the first line. She has dutifully captured it all. But she can’t keep on filming until the end. She must be home before midnight. “Tomorrow I have school.”
At midnight, a minute of silence is observed. Another demonstration of strength and discipline. At the end, people cheering and chanting: “The police joined in as well!”
I salute you. This morning’s news is that a demonstration in front of the Valencian Congress was charged by police. There is talk of 15 arrests and four minor injuries.