Barcelona, May 13
The 12M demonstration in Barcelona was colourful, animated, and fun. It was also quite meaningless. We didn’t take the streets to demand change or to bring it about. We took the streets to celebrate the second anniversary of the movement, or – in Disney terms – to ‘remember the magic’.
There was music, costumes, theatre. Most notably, there was Barcelona’s own team of aluminium foil superheroes: the ‘Reflectantes‘. At every bank franchise, they took on their nemesis, the 1% with their cardboard top hats and their cigars, brandishing their allmighty euros. As in every self respecting fairytale, the Reflectantes managed to defeat the evil bankers, leaving the franchises with two stickers on their windows in sign of victory. ‘Let it be known that this bank cheats, scams and throws people out onto the streets.’ And: ‘Yes we can’.
At the back, we had the ‘Euro Nazi’s’ closing the parade, straight from a Leni Riefenstahl documentary, with their red and black standards and their shoulder belts proudly showing the Euro logo instead of the swastika. In between, all types of collectives marched by. The Mortgage platform, the Granny brigade of the ‘Iaioflautas‘, some anarchists and communists etc.
For activists from the UK who happened to be present, the demonstration was ‘massive’. For those of us who are used to demo’s in Spain, it was ‘okay’ at best. Maybe fifteen thousand people, if we are very generous with the numbers. Roughly a tenth of the attendance of last year.
Nevertheless, the demonstration attracted the attention of hordes of anthropologists from three continents. It was funny to study them as they studied humanity in revolt. If I were an academic myself, I would probably write my master thesis about the behaviour of the ‘homo anthropologicus’ in the field.
Upon arrival at the Arc de Triomf, people dispersed, except for a small group that went on to squat a building in the neighbourhood. As from today it is known as the Occupied Social Center ‘Las Barricadas’.
At night, reflecting on the day gone by, the demonstrations seem to be turning into an occasion for us to meet and connect. In the summer of 2011 there were demonstrations much bigger than this one every single day. Back then we had the feeling that real change was within reach if only we could keep up the pressure. Now it’s different. Change will not come from mobilizations in the streets. Instead of overthrowing the system from the outside, we may have more success if we infiltrate it from a thousand different sides.