Sol, July 23.
This morning for the first time we didn’t get up before dawn. We spent the entire day in the Northern Park, resting and preparing signs and banners for the final leg. Eight kilometres through the city down to Puerta del Sol.
Once again at lunch we are treated by the local people to a wide variety of delicious Spanish food. Our march has been an inspiration to all. Our patience, conviction and endurance have proven the strength of this movement. This is what people are grateful for. We have taken away the cynicism of many. We have given them reason to believe that a more human world is really possible.
A couple of municipal police officers look on from a distance. They too have born us respect, and maybe even admiration, both here and on the march. Still, from the southern columns we have heard stories of police officers being ordered to molest the marchers and to deny them entrance to various villages. But just like all the previous police aggression against the movement it has proven to be counterproductive. Violence is a weakness. Peaceful resistance is a sign of strength.
At six we walk, people from the march and from the neighbourhood. More people join us as we take to the six lanes of the Passeo de la Castellana. A tent is being brought along. With people being at risk of eviction this is the ‘house of the future’. Lots and lots of signs are carried, as always, some of them pretty funny, some of them ready to be carved into marble. The flags that are waved are from the regions whence people have marched. Apart from that there are banners of the Spanish Republic.
The republic (1931-1939) represented the modern, autonomous and progressive spirit of Spain against the medieval spirit of the church and the army. And though hardly anyone lives to tell about those days, the republic is still very much alive in many people’s hearts and minds. Sooner or later it will be restored.
Spain has never digested forty years of dictatorship. After the civil war ended with the victory of the fascists, tens of thousands of republicans have been executed. Many more have been made to work as prisoners of war on the faraonic Valley of the Fallen, just North of Madrid, where the fascist ‘heroes’ and Franco himself have found their final resting place. Just like in ancient Egypt, and many times after that, thousands of people died through forced labour.
There has never been instituted a truth commission. Silence was part of the deal during the so-called transition. Franco’s heritage has been picked up by the present day Popular Party, and they have ‘coopted’ the socialists, saying: “Listen. We can share power, so we can enter in Europe. But not a word about the dictatorship. And don’t touch the civil apparatus that was installed by Franco.” The socialists accepted, of course. And that is the reason why the people on the streets are singing ‘They call it a democracy / Even though it’s not.’
The revolution will have to address the recent history of Spain. The truth will have to come out. Crimes committed under the regime will have to be ascertained. People will have to be exposed for what they did and have to be held accountable. Only if Spain can recover its historic memory and clear its conscience can we avoid that the revolution leads to further conflict in the future.
After many kilometres of singing and shouting and waving flags over the Passeo de la Castellana we enter the heart of town, through shopping streets where people are sitting unsuspectingly on terraces sipping their cocktails. ‘If you don’t move now / Then don’t complain tomorrow!’ we sing. Few of the people on the terraces are moving. Some of them are applauding. Most of them are shooting videos.
We’re banging rhythmically on pans and empty boxes and bottles. On the Gran Vía we are sitting down. The excitement rises. Just down the street there’s Puerta del Sol. We’re waiting for the Southern Columns, so that we can all arrive simultaneously. Then off we go, the people from the march ahead of the rest, with flags. The last hundred meters we go running, into the square, where we receive the embrace of Madrid and all the other cities of Spain.
When people come back to their senses, we await the assembly. Looking around for a good spot I notice that no-one has climbed onto the scaffolding yet. “That sounds like a challenge,” says Jim. And next thing we’re up there, looking out over the National Assembly of Popular Marches. Representatives from all the columns share their experiences. We connect live to squares in Athens, Paris, London and Berlin. The sun sets on this historic event, and we have the full view from our royal revolutionary lodge up above…