By Hilary Wainwright
Red Pepper Blog
The Catalans have a phrase: ’em planto’. It has a double meaning: ‘I plant’, or ‘I’ve had enough’. At end of the huge 15 October demonstration of Indignados (‘outraged’) in Barcelona – the papers put it at around 250,000 – we were we greeted with an impromptu garden under the Arc de Triomf, the end point of the march. Campaigners for food sovereignty had planted vegetables in well-spaced rows, ready for long term cultivation.
The point was partly an ecological one. But the surrounding placards indicated that the gardeners also intended it to make a symbolic point about the broader significance of the march. ‘Plantemos’ declared a large cardboard placard, meaning: ‘we plant ourselves’ – ‘we stand firm’.
Mariel, who was dressed as a bee – essential to flourishing horticulture and now facing pesticidal destruction – explained that the activists who organised the garden were part of the agro-ecology bloc on the march. The march as a whole had several layers of self-organisation that became apparent at certain moments. There were three main focal themes – all issues on which active alliances had come together over recent months: education (yellow flags), health (green flags) and housing (red flags).
As we approached the Arc de Triomf, someone on a loud hailer announced that the different directions in which those following each of the themes should go, guided by an open lorry carrying the appropriate flag. The idea was that the demonstration would end not with speeches to the assembled masses, on the traditional model. Instead, the plan was to hold assemblies to discuss action and alternatives to cuts and privatisation.
News came through later in the evening that two of these assemblies had taken action, leading an occupation of a third hospital – two that were making redundancies had already been occupied the day before the demonstration. They had also squatted a large unoccupied building to turn it into housing for ten families. Evictions have become a focus of intense conflict in Barcelona as the numbers grow every day.
As well as clusters around themes, it was the regular neighbourhood assemblies, feeding into an occasional assembly of assemblies, that were the organism that gave the demonstration its impressive life.
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