After protests to demand a reform of the country’s democracy were banned by Spain’s electoral commission, they swelled to their largest numbers yet.
On what could be the fifth or sixth day of protests, peaceful sit-ins were staged in more than 30 cities, according to Spanish news site El Mundo. Rallies were prohibited for Saturday’s pre-election “reflection day” and Sunday’s local and regional elections but protesters vowed not to back down.
In Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square, where thousands had spent the night in tents or outdoors, a “silent cry” event was organized at which demonstrators would seal their mouths with tape when the electoral commission's order entered into force at midnight. In Valencia, some 200 demonstrators entered a bank office to protest the oversized influence of bankers on politics. In most cities, protesters held meetings about how best to next proceed.
Aitor Aguirre, a 32-year-old freelance photographer, says he felt compelled to go to the protest in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square because of the country’s “deep feeling of desperation in how bankers are escaping so well [from] the crisis while people are paying [for] the rescue.”
Aguirre is referring to Spain’s economic crisis, which has left the country with a higher than 21 percent unemployment rate and around 4.3 million people without jobs.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose Socialist party is expected to lose to the opposition conservative party, said the Interior Ministry would deal with the situation “correctly, with intelligence.” The Justice Ministry was reviewing the extent of the rally ban, according to the Premier.
The movement has alternately been called the “Spanish Protest,” the “Spanish Revolution,” and now, “M-15,” in a reference to May 15, when people first took to the streets in large numbers across Spain.
Some experts have compared the protests to the Middle East uprisings , and Aguirre agrees. “It´s not only a protest for the Spanish situation but a global thing. The time’s they are a changin’.”
Here are his photos: