September 27, 0000 hrs.
They are charging now. Police have fired live rounds of ammunition in the air at Cibeles. At Neptuno, thousands of people are still gathered, but authorities want them out of there a.s.a.p. The order by the delegate of the government must have been to ‘clear the place at midnight’.
I was there until an hour ago. Now I am following the events through livestream in our media hub. So far it has been a wonderfully peaceful evening.
The call was to assemble at 1900. After yesterday’s charges, the 99% of the crowd came to show their aversion to violence.
Nobody let him- or herself be fooled as to who started it, except for the newspapers and the tv. YouTube has been awash with footage that showed what happened. In these demonstrations, cameras are covering everything, always. One of them caught a police officer dragging a hooligan to his arrest. The man can be heard shouting: “I am your colleague, damned!”
Today, the phrase appeared on one of the banners as people returned to congress for the second night in a row.
When I got there, around seven, the space in front of the barricades was filled, but there wasn’t enough of a crowd to block the roundabout. Yesterday’s official estimate of 6000 wouldn’t have been too far from the truth.
That was the beginning. The crowd kept growing. It didn’t come even close to the numbers of the first night, but we were over ten thousand, even before the anarchists came to join us.
All evening, the situation was relaxed. Police kept their distance. Yesterday they wore full riot gear including bulletproof vests even before the protest started. Tonight they only wore their caps, and they left their guns out of sight.
“You are more handsome! / Without your helmets!” is what people sang to them last year, during the acampada in Sol. This time, they didn’t. Too much had happened. Still a significant part of the crowd invited police to join us. “¡Policía! ¡Únete!”
Rumour has it that twenty percent of riot police called in sick yesterday. Authorities supposedly had to bring in officers from outside Madrid.
Around eight o’ clock, the demonstration in support of the general strike in Galicia, Asturias and the Basque Country arrived at Neptuno over Atocha. It was organised by the anarcho-syndicalist trade union CNT.
At the outbreak of the civil war, the anarchists were a driving force on the republican side. They had well over a million members, they formed their own militias, they had collectively organised Barcelona and the greater part of Catalonia. Unfortunately, they were also hated more by their communist ‘allies’ than by their fascist enemies. George Orwell can tell you all about it.
Under the Franco regime, the union went underground. Today they only count a fraction of the members they once had, but unlike most peoples in Europe, the Spanish have anarchism in their blood. So for me, it was an impressive sight, thousands of people with red-and-black flags advancing over the Paseo del Prado, mixing their own songs with those of 15M.
Tonight’s atmosphere was joyful. And unambiguous on our side. Around ten o’ clock a small group with scarfs over their faces was present near the barricade. The people around asked them to expose themselves. They refused, and the crowd went: “Out of here! Out of here!” And they left.
At fifty meters from the square there is a coffeeshop. After the second charge yesterday, dozens of people sought refuge inside. Police went after them. At that moment, the owner stepped out, he faced the robocops and planted his hands on his hips. ‘You will not touch these people’. Someone shot the scene. The photo went viral.
Today there was a crowd gathered outside to thank the man. He was yesterday’s hero. For most of the evening he received applause and posed for photos with his fans. The revenues of the coffeeshop must have skyrocketed over the day.
Such was the situation when I left to look for connection. No saucy pictures of rioters for the newspapers to smash on the front page, but no less significant than the night before.
Then at the twelfth stroke of midnight, the spell was broken..