It caught Spanish politics by surprise: thousands of Spaniards outraged by the authorities’ failure to respond to ordinary people’s desperation. They massed together on the eve of municipal and regional elections last May 15. The call had gone out by Internet: demand real democracy now, and occupy Madrid’s central square, La Puerta del Sol.
The police were deployed with restraint. The square cleared at last. Sol was like an emblem of the 15-M movement. Six months later we speak to one of its organisers.
Santiago Roldán, a gym teacher, said: “15-M raised consciousness. It told people they weren’t the only ones, to come and join us, demonstrate. It reminded them they are part of society; that our movement is also part of society and society is part of our movement.”
Many young people came with freshly-earned university degrees. One of their demands was reform of the electoral law which favours the two main parties to the exclusion of other political voices, the big ones taking turns in power.
History graduate Andrea Raboso said: “I don’t expect anything. All I ask for is that they form a united party of centre-right with centre-left, PP-PSOE, People’s Party and Socialists. Let’s stop this farce of voting for either side, since they’re the only two parties that can get into government, and their policies are the same.”
Another 15-M motivation is to prevent the eviction of people no longer able to pay their home mortgages — 300,000 cases in three years. Spanish law requires them to continue paying back the bank even when the property has been seized.
Tatiana Roeva, a psychologist, said: “I owe nearly 300,000 euros. I’ll have it for life. There’s no way I can pay it off. My daughter will inherit the debt. So we have to fight to change the law on property loans. It’s very unfair to people, and it protects the banks, gives them impunity.”
15-M condemns widespread practices that the movement says duped people into overextending themselves financially, unrealistically.
Lawyer Rafael Mayoral said: “Property evaluators, banks and promoters artificially drove up the prices of housing. In the backlash we’re seeing now, they are attacking people who are losing their jobs and cannot meet the payments. In the meantime the banks receive billions of euros in public money, money that people have worked for.”
The movement insists that those in positions of responsibility face justice.