In the Arab world they are demanding the right to vote while here they are saying that voting is pointless.
-Felipe González, former prime minister of Spain.

THIS QUOTE ALMOST SOUNDS believable. Stomping their feet without saying exactly what they’re upset about, that might sound typically Spanish to some. Like back in September when the nationwide strike of September 29th came and went, protesting the government’s austerity measures by refusing to work. Yes, Spain’s government would like you to believe that the thousands of people camping in hundreds of plazas across the country are protesting. But looking closer, it’s something else entirely.

In Logroño, the capital of La Rioja, the main plaza is now a makeshift campground. But those staying put aren’t just sitting in, they’re holding workshops and discussion groups, mobilizing people and planning their next moves, sitting in circles talking, not shouting much at all. All photos by the author.

1

15-M: Logroño speaks

At the beginning of each day, leaders of each focus take the stage informing all the 'protesters' of where to go to discuss each topic.

2

"Direct Action Without Violence"

A focus group discussing methods of direct action, or civil resistance. Leaders discuss possible courses of action in addition to the importance of non-violence.

3

By the numbers:

45% of 16 to 24 year-olds in Spain are unemployed, 35% when stretched to all workers under 29.

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Young and restless

While Spain's total unemployment rate soars at 21%, nearly half of the country's future leaders remain jobless, lamenting the present effects of the status-quo's shortsighted decisions in the past.

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What's the problem?

Spain's rigid rules governing the labor market bring a high cost of laying off established, older and less productive workers under legislation that goes back 30 years. As employers are wary of giving new hires full-blown, open-ended contracts, younger workers often end up with temporary ones, sometimes lasting just a few months.

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Nowhere to go but the plaza

Unemployed and broke, most young people still live at home with parents. Where else can they take their ideas for change but the plaza? Where else can they go at all?

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A quiet campground

While happily compared to the "Arab Spring" in the media, the scenes of "protest" in Spain look drastically different.

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Organization

A spokesperson speaks to an assembled crowd. Organization and planning can present problems in organizing effective demonstrations, but the advent of always-on social networking creates many solutions.

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No hay pan para tanto chorizo

"There's not enough money for so many thieves," a popular slogan reflecting feelings against the many soon-to-be-reelected politicians already mired in corruption scandals. With only 2 rigid parties to choose from, there isn't much flexibility in Spanish politics.

10

Creating visibility

Tents remain up throughout the day as a reminder that this isn't something that ends when the sun goes down.

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Don't let them trick you...

...into beliving that there's no more to life than capitalism.

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Something for everyone

Just as everyone in Spain has something to be upset about, people of all ages turn up to look, listen, and participate.

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In full swing

Like the rest of Spain, Logroño's are typically full in late afternoon--but rarely is everyone around for the same purpose.

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Taking the mic

In the group focused upon 'Art as an engine', demonstrators discuss how to incorporate their messages into art and why government support for the arts is essential.

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"Plaza de la democracia"