The 15 May movement caught most everyone by surprise. The Spanish millenials had been dismissed as apolitical and apathetic, certainly incapable of starting a movement of mass revolutionary consciousness. But change was coming. In the early days of the fiscal crisis, Spain’s Creative Commons community politicized, expanding their mission away from the internet and towards social change. Abortive youth protests in 2009, and intensive online political discussion had many involved in the Spanish free culture movement expecting something to happen. But no one expected this.
It’s been a little over a month since the Facebook-organized protest on May 15th that defied all expectations and led to the founding of the camps, but everything has organized with incredible speed. It began with 40,000 more or less strangers refusing to leave Placa Catalunya. On May 17th, ‘Commissions’ were formed to solve individual problems within the camp. For the next couple of days, these were basically groups of six or seven people, sitting in a semi-circle in the middle of the square or under improvised bivouacs, talking. Now, a month later, there are 18 commissions, all with their own tents and booths. And not just the clearly necessary action, communication, and infrastructure commissions, there are also commissions of agriculture, health, even theater. At first, the entire camp held a general assembly once a day. Now, commission representatives hold public meetings three times a week to discuss the progress made by their groups and plan actions for the camp moving forward.
On May 15th, protesters slept on the ground, if they slept at all. By the 20th, camping tents, toilets and tarp covers for a couple commissions were up. Today, there is a play room for kids filled with donated toys, a people’s library, a free store for clothing, and a massage and meditation tent. The camp has power (electricians hacked them into the grid, and there are donated back-up generators), internet (the Pirate Commission have built and provided private servers), even printers, scanners, and all variety of audio visual equipment (provided by the A/V Commission, naturally). When I arrived two weeks ago, the plaza was covered in beer and wine stains, and garbage littered the square. Now, they sweep and mop three times a day, and campers walk around picking up garbage regularly.
—Spain: The Indignant Community