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Spain: “Occupying” the Banks on the Street and the Net

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

Last week the media announced the most difficult week of the Spanish economy since the arrival of the euro. The debt crisis is bringing news that is exhausting the patience of the citizens. The public money injection into Bankia could reach a total of 23 billion euros, but the governing politicians and the managers of Bankia do not seem interested in holding those responsible accountable and make them give explanations to the people about what caused this crisis.

The nationalization of Bankia, furthermore, according to what the president, Mariano Rajoy, has announced, will only be partial: it will allow a restructuring of the bank, avoiding collapse of the economy, but it will return to private hands. The consequence of this socialization of the losses means that the money will not even be refunded to the public, which is why many citizens are demanding a complete nationalization of the bank.

Faced with this bleak prospect and the denial of the government to investigate the management of Bankia, people in Spain have taken matters into their own hands. Since the crisis began, popular initiatives have flourished on the streets and the net. Last month the Indignado movement of Barcelona brought their protest to the building of the La Caixa bank, a movement known as #OccupyMordor (in reference to the towers of the evil forces of the film The Lord of the Rings). Another similar movement, under the name #OccupyBankia, organized a cacerolada (a protest where saucepans and other kitchenware are beaten to create noise) in front of the Kyo towers of Madrid, headquarters of Bankia.

"Bankia is ours" Photo taken from Fotograccion.org under CC Licence BY-SA-3.0.

Another public gathering organized with the same objective as the previous ones, denouncing profiteering, combating evictions and demanding transparency, took place in the Lavapiés neighbourhood of Madrid. Hundreds of people have gone to a building with empty flats close to Atocha in order to hand them over to people without access to housing. One of the recurring slogans is “Si Bankia es nuestra, sus casas también” (“If Bankia is ours, their houses [are] too”). A few days ago, the “yayoflautas”, older activists of the Indignado movement 15M, simultaneously protested in Bankia branches in five Spanish cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville and Palma. They are demanding a “citizen rescue”, as well as a clarification of the causes of the catastrophic bank situation. This veteran group has its own blog in which it has published a manifesto in various languages:

Ahora están poniendo el futuro de nuestras hijas y nietas en peligro. Estamos orgullosas de la respuesta social y del empuje que están mostrando las nuevas generaciones en la lucha por una democracia digna de este nombre y por la justicia social, contra los banqueros y los políticos cómplices. Estamos a su lado, de sentimiento, a las asambleas de barrio y también a la acción. Si quieren descalificar su valentía llamándolos “perroflautas”, a nosotras nos pueden llamar “iaioflautas”.

Now they are putting the future of our daughters and granddaughters in danger. We are proud of the social response and the impulse of the new generations in the struggle for democracy worthy of it's name and for social justice, against the bankers and complicit politicians. We are at your side, in the neighborhood assemblies and also in action. If someone wants to dismiss their bravery by calling them “perroflautas” [dog-flutes] we can call ourselves “iaioflautas”.

The calls of the different protests against the bank and all the photographic and audiovisual material and manifestos actively circulated by the social networks have become a measure of the public anger and key to the organization of social action. At the end of May, the blog CierraBankia [es] (“Close Bankia”) was created, which is dedicated to compiling articles about the bank in question and spreading means of boycotting it. The blog Dark Spaces [es] parodies placards like this one with the image of the Gollum from The Lord of the Rings:

"Commitment: Your money is our treasure"

This video shows another original form of “occupation” with a flamenco protest in a bank of Bankia in Seville the 17th of May, in which a flamenco singer accompanied by dancers stages a song titled “Bankia, lungs and gills”:

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

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