Protests and demonstrations across Spain began in the early hours of Thursday, March 29th, in the first general strike since 2010. In almost all major cities pickets were held ahead of demos (an estimated 111 demos across the country), whose objectives was to report on the devastating consequences that the new ‘labour reform’ entails, to propagate the nationwide mobilizations, to prevent scabs from sabotaging the strike and, through direct actions and blockades, to shut down enterprises, stores and workplaces that were expected to stay open despite the strike, and even to cut off the main streets of cities. The wager was twofold: to paralyze both the lines of production and consumption. So, strikers were urging people to block all services and (those who have a job) not to go to work, but also not to buy anything, and use telecommunications, electricity, etc. as little as possible.
While the ‘Labour Reform’ has already been voted in parliament since early February 2012, the State General Budget will be approved on Friday, March 30th, meaning that the government will attempt, among others, to impose even more direct and indirect taxes and to cut social benefits by reducing public funds (with education and health care being the most affected by the new measures). The legislative atrocities, amidst an ever intensified onslaught on working people in Spain, affect deeply the unemployed and the unemployment allowance requirements as well as provided benefits for retirees and pensioners.
Amidst a premeditated crisis of the Capital, hundreds of thousands people took to the streets in a last-minute attempt to stand up against the implementation of these measures and to resist the deterioration of their everyday lives. Also, several feminist groups protested the unpaid household work and called for a strike in the day care sector. The police presence was massive from the beginning of the day, but this did not prevent people from taking to the streets and expressing various forms of protest. Of course, all blocks of groups and organizations or random strikers did not share the same goals, thus the fighting spirit of the marches varied, depending on the composition of demonstrator blocks in each neighbourhood and city centre.
Voices from diverse collectivities and political spaces describe the 29M’s mobilizations as successful in their progress and turnout. However, we cannot ignore that more than 177 people got arrested by police thugs in various parts of the Spanish State, or the brutal police assaults, or the numerous severely injured protesters. A young trade unionist was stabbed by an employer who insisted on operating his business in the city of Torrelavega in Cantabria, and a boy from Gasteiz in the Basque Country suffered cerebral hemorrhage after a police charge and is now in intensive care unit with guarded prognosis.
Here follows an account of some of the events in Barcelona (or Barna), as our comrades experienced the street battles in the ‘Rose of Fire’. Apart from pigs in uniform, there were reportedly infiltrators in plain clothes, who were spotted and chased away by demonstrators at least on one occasion. You may read/hear more information on mobilizations in other cities (in Spanish) here: 1, 2, 3, 4
In Barcelona, pickets started from the early hours of 29M, at around midnight. Diagonal Avenue, Gran Vía and other main streets were blocked by flaming waste containers and tires. Many businesses were closed early in the morning. The subway stations were blocked and opened only at 5pm, operating minimum services.
From midday, there was a call for a central picket, where base unions and several picketers gathered coming from every neighbourhood. During the whole morning, waste containers were burnt and streets were cut off.
Several hoodies closed down the Sants railway station, attacked the Barcelona Stock Exchange and clashed with police. By that time, there were already circa 20 arrests. Nonetheless, the morning was more quite than expected.
At 4.30 pm, the anarchist block had called for a gathering in Jardinets de Gràcia; in addition, anarcho-syndicalists from CGT, CNT-AIT/Catalonia and Solidaridad Obrera, along with autonomous and anarchists had planned protest mobilizations. The demo was pretty active; there were nearly 3,000 people in the blocks of the libertarian demonstration alone. While the march moved, direct actions and street blockades were carried out and trash bins were set on fire, before the police could persecute the bulk of protesters. The demo finished at around 6pm in Catalonia Square, where base unions and neighbourhood assemblies had called for an anti-capitalist rally.
The rally was multitudinous and the place was packed with people; a pickup truck with sound system suggested the route and the organizing of demonstrator blocks. However, a police cordon stood in the way of what would have been a joint demonstration. In Sant Pere Street, which connects Urquinaona Square with Catalonia Square, a group of hooded comrades started challenging the police cordon by erecting barricades. Police attacked them, but they were not able to continue the repressive operation due to the large number of protesters supporting each other. It was then when the uncontrollable group could start throwing paving stones, bottles, flares and paint bombs to the cops, who were forced to retreat. Fire had turned into praxis, and soon barricades were wrapped in flames. The demonstrator blocks, despite the tension, did not step back and continued to resist.
An intense pitched battle became evident; uncontrollable youths attacked several capitalist symbols, i.e. a Starbucks shop and a bank branch were burnt to the ground, and El Corte Inglés (department store chain) was left with busted windows, just like several banks. Cops retreated when demonstrators ran towards the police lines screaming ‘RE-SIS-TEN-CIA’ (resistance). Riots in downtown Barcelona lasted a couple of hours. A clear impression from the day was the fact that, in several occasions, the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalonia police force) was incapable of stifling the street battles.
Later on, repressive forces began firing rubber bullets and tear gas (for many protesters, especially the younger ones, it was the very first time they even breathed tear gas) while cops tried to surround the square, leaving a street open for people to get out of there. But the struggle went on.
After the demonstration and despite the smell of tear gas, the anti-riot patrols and police assaults but also burning barricades carried on until late at night, while some of the day’s events echoed and re-echoed in the bourgeois media.
On March 30th the MPs are expected to vote on the State General Budget, ensuring further enslavement of the people, both Spanish-born and immigrants, both workers and unemployed. It might be said that we have lost, that we could not get what we wanted, but the hooded many attacking the state authority and structures of the Capital are possibly the light in the path of a new socio-political revolutionary project, fearless and combative. It has been a beautiful-lived moment that will set an example for the near future; nothing ends, the struggle goes on.
From Barcelona, we send our revolutionary greetings to comrades who have been supporting us and we declare our willingness to keep on fighting at a local level for the change we all want, using the flame ignited by so many others. ANARCHY OR DEATH
PS. It is 00.11 at night and, according to some comrades in the city centre, the fires can be counted in dozens. Something is changing.
Contra Info from the streets
There is a call for March 30th in solidarity with 29M’s arrestees in Barcelona. Now is the time to organize and attend a solidarity gathering in your city.
IMMEDIATE RELEASE AND ABSOLUTION OF ALL ARRESTEES!
FOR A GENERAL, WILDCAT, INDEFINITE STRIKE!
Our brothers and sisters in Chile were fighting on the annual Day of the Young Combatant – March 29th. We send all our strength to them too.
No Comments “Spain: General strike demonstrations on March 29th”
Yo fui testigo de como nos barrieron en calle Fontanella con las furgonas, no mataron a nadie por suerte!!vi como apaleaban a un compañero entre 5 perros de escuadra, una mujer que iba con su bebé se vió metida en el fregao y mi pareja le indicó que se metiese en el carrer d’Estruc. Luego rodeamos plaza cataluña y nos pusimos en ronda de san pedro y batalla campal! Hay que seguir luchando!! Salud
[ I witnessed how the police blocked us with vans on Fontanella street; it was by chance that no one got killed! I saw how 5 guard dogs of the Escuadra beat up a comrade; a woman who was with her baby was kettled in, and my companion told her to escape from carrer d’Estruc. Then we walked around Catalonia Square until we reached the Ronda de Sant Pere and the pitched battle! We must keep fighting!! Health ]
Barcelona Engulfed in Flames
The General Strike of 29 March paralyzed much of Spain. The ports shut down, along with many factories, electricity consumption fell by 24% (even though in Madrid, for example, they kept the street lights running during the day to jack up the usage rates and affect the statistics), transport in many areas was paralyzed, strike participation ran between 80-100% in most industries (and at about a quarter to a third in the service sector and the small shops).
In Barcelona, the general strike began at midnight with pickets closing down bars. In the center, one group of hooded picketers entered a casino, presumably to shut it down, but once inside they carried out a quick robbery and made off with 2,300 euros in cash. Early in the morning, at least 8 blockades, most of them involving burning tires, shut down the major highway and rail entrances to the city. Pickets throughout the morning in most neighborhoods of the city patrolled the streets, blocking transit, barricading the streets with dumpsters, and forcing shops to close. At midday the strike in Barcelona escalated into heavy rioting that lasted most of the day. Hundreds of thousands of people converged in the city center, seizing the streets and slowing down police. Innumerable banks and luxury stores were smashed, innumerable dumpsters set ablaze, and a large number of banks, luxury stores, Starbucks and other chains were set on fire.
In a couple occasions the police were sent running, attacked with fire, fireworks, and stones, and for the first time ever the Catalan police had to use tear gas to regain control, although large parts of the city remained liberated for hours, and columns of smoke rose into the sky from multiple neighborhoods late into the night. Many journalists and undercover cops were attacked and injured by the rioters. Fires spread to unseen proportions, often filling wide avenues and sending flames shooting several meters into the air. Firefighters were so over extended, they often took half an hour to reach even the major blazes, and were often seen bypassing burning dumpsters in order to extinguish burning banks. Dozens of people were injured by less lethal ammunitions fired by the police, and a relatively unprecedented number of people participated in the riots directly or indirectly. The heaviest fighting and smashing was carried out by anarchists, left Catalan independentistes, socialists, and above all neighborhood hooligans and immigrant youth. Nonetheless, thousands more people of all ages and backgrounds supported and applauded the rioters and filled the air with anticapitalist chants. Accounts and memories differ, but many people feel that they have just witnessed the largest and most important riots in Catalunya since the 1980s, if not earlier.
A more detailed report will follow when the smoke clears.
Some interesting videos are linked below, but bear in mind that the most intense moments are never recorded, because the journalists are getting their cameras smashed, and also because generally the government requests that the media not show footage of large groups of people smashing banks or attacking the police.
More undercovers caught on camera here
29M Huelga General – Mossos Secretos