postvirtual

First blood

In Madrid, Spain on 5 August 2011 at 10:00

Dear people,

Yesterday evening I was walking through Madrid with a friend of mine from the Northern Column. We had just witnessed the third consecutive evening of protest against the police occupation of Puerta del Sol. Just like the other evenings, the majority of the crowd went on the loose after having expressed their outrage in the face of the police for a while. We stayed behind for a bit, discussing on the legitimacy of the occupation. And we lost them.

Fortunately you don’t need Twitter to know where the crowd has gone. In these great days of civil unrest you only have to follow the police vans and the helicopter hovering over the city day and night.

People have passed by Cibeles and turned north towards Passeo de la Castellana. We can see the blue flickering lights of the vans in the distance. More reinforcements come speeding by. Or are they? They have a different sirene. These are not police vans. These are ambulances.

We start running. At the Columbus statue there’s a small police cordon barring our way. A hundred meters up the street there’s a war zone in front of the ministery of the interior. ‘Fuck!’ I exclaim, we are too late. After a few minutes I see the first of the wounded stumbling towards us. I know this guy. He had embraced me the other day for documenting the eviction of the acampada at congress. Now his head is bleeding, and I feel guilty. I wasn’t there to shoot it.

Video by RTVE

He is accompanied by another friend of mine. “There are more wounded over there”, he says to the police officers. But traffic is blocked. They won’t let ambulances pass by.

Once I manage to encircle the blockade and get to the ministery, most of the people have gone. They dispersed when the charge began. Only a small group remains. Some of the wounded are on the pavement. A new line of police vans arrive. They belch out two platoons of riot police who march our way to push us out of here.

When we try to regroup we get intercepted by more vans blocking us from various sides. Policemen rush out to check our ID. Tonight, after almost three months of basically peaceful coexistence, police have opened hostilities. And this happened the same day that the Police union SUP once again offered full moral support to the cause of the indignados. I have a feeling there’s an internal conflict within the police on how to handle the situation.

We are finally allowed to go. I speak to a couple of comrades to hear about the dynamics of what happened. It seems the crowd had blocked traffic on the Passeo de la Castellana in front of the ministery, singing. Some of them had tried to get up to the building to attach a banner. Vans arrived, officers jumped out and started hitting people. Then most people started running in various directions.

At Cibeles we get reorganised. The bulk of the people are further up the road in direction Atocha. Through phone and Twitter we decide to meet in a square near Sol. Once we get there, obviously, people sit down in a circle to start an assembly. It’s frustrating. I know how this is going to end. We’re going to talk for hours until people get tired and go home. At these moments I really can’t stand the assemblyist structure of our movement. Now is time for action. We should be able to reach a quick agreement on what to do. Like going to the private residence of the governor of Madrid or the minister of the interior, with pots and pans. Camp outside, keep them awake all night.

But as I expected, the momentum for tonight slips away. Still, after one and a half hour of discussion, we reach an agreement about what to do tomorrow. A working group on police violence will start to draft a protocol on how to act. And at night, of course, there will be a big demonstration. August is going to be a very hot month in Madrid. After yesterday’s hostilities people are more indignada than ever.

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