Movimiento 15-M, Spain’s Occupy Precursor, Going Strong and Crossing Borders

Posted: 18th March 2013
Movimiento 15-M, Spain’s Occupy Precursor, Going Strong and Crossing Borders

The Occupy Wall Street phenomenon surprised many in the United States by its rapid cultural impact during the fall of 2011. But had we paid closer attention to the actions of disenfranchised youth in Spain earlier that summer, we would have recognized the potential for mass public action by digitally connected masses facing widespread unemployment and economic disillusionment. Movimiento 15-M – now often referred to as the “Indignados” – along with the Arab Spring countries and Greece sowed the seeds for OWS.

Yet, while Occupy increasingly localizes, 15-M persists on an international scale. Emerging in early 2011 and drawing its name from its first major public display in Madrid on May 15, 2011, its ongoing campaign against entrenched political and financial systems continues to flourish. In addition to continued domestic demonstrations, the movement has spawned solidarity protests across Europe during the last six months. You can see many of those events shown on the map below.

Before connecting with Steffen Konrath at Liquid Newsroom, the 15-M wasn’t on our radar. Let’s look at the history in the event that there are readers like us with a limited background on the movement’s origins. The story of 15M began in March 2011 alongside the development of Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH), the Platform of People Affected by Mortgages. The first significant day of action took place on May 15, 2011; the event continues to resonate two years later. 

15-M’s organizing capabilities and connectivity to sympathetic groups outside of Spain is visible via social media. The impact was felt across the continent including a major protest in London during October led by the OccupyLSX group “backed by anti-austerity group UK Uncut, the London-based Assembly of the Spanish 15M movement and the People’s Assemblies Network Global Day of Action”. Their cause was not limited to social media or ignored in the mainstream as editorials discussed the need for reform in Spain given the thousands of disaffected demonstrating in the streets.

The timing and aforementioned cross pollination between 15M and the more globally recognized Occupy warrants a look; did the two feed off of each other? Let’s compare a two year timeline of major events for Movimiento 15-M and OWS. Note that the below timeline is not a comprehensive view of all events talking about the two movements; this displays 100 events across 2011 and 2012.

Given the cyclical nature of media coverage for each movement the anniversaries become interesting points to monitor going forward. We’ll want to pay particular attention to those upcoming dates in May and September. However, recent events related to 15-M show that it’s not just those major nostalgic dates that drive action: there were massive protests across Spain on February 23, 2013 and large scale arrests in Madrid on September 25, 2012. Those were both well organized demonstrations with advance notice.

With that in mind, let’s see what we can find upcoming for 15M during the next several months to identify dates that may disrupt daily activity in major cities across Europe as well as exert additional pressure on an already much maligned Spanish government.

There are a couple of dates displayed in the above timeline around which we might expect major demonstrations including an interesting reference to planning for participation in the World Social Forum to be held in Tunis at the end of March.

We’re taking on this subject in much more depth jointly with the Liquid Newsroom during the next several weeks. In the meantime, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on what other angles are worth exploring: more on ties to OWS or looking at the internal politics of 15-M or the shifts in media coverage? You can check out the Movimiento 15-M report live in Recorded Future to follow along just as we are doing.

Reminder: Join Recorded Future on March 21 for a webcast on monitoring web-based open source information for securing the supply chain. Special guest speaker is CEO and Co-Founder of here.