Today’s general strike in Spain

There’s a labor strike in Spain today; union workers are protesting budget cuts and layoffs, and the high unemployment rate in general. You can read more about it here and here.

When I went out this morning, it was eerily quiet in the streets. Most shops were closed, including all of the coffee shops and supermarkets that I frequent. Vodaphone was open however, as well as a few shoe stores and even a perfumería. I was trying to figure out the rhyme or reason to what was closed – National stores, but not international ones? Family-owned shops decide for themselves? – when I heard shouting and sirens from up the street. A parade of strikers was making its way down Gran Vía de Grácia (no doubt headed toward Plaza Catalunya), and all of the shopkeepers in stores that were open began frantically pulling down the metal blinds and closing up.

The paraders were relatively docile, just walking along in a pack with some red flags and signs, shouting here and there, but not really causing a scene. Perhaps they were saving their rancor for Plaza Catalunya? A few banged on the metal blinds of shops as they passed, and there was a bit of a confrontation between a group of protestors and a shop owner who didn’t close his blinds all the way. Other than that, they passed by pretty quickly while some of us observed from benches along the street.

The police were causing more noise, following behind in a clump of motorcycles and vans, lights flashing, sirens blaring every few minutes.

My experience is so very limited, but of the Catalonians I’ve spoken to, most agree with the protestors’ sentiments, but think that a strike isn’t effective. They grumble that it’s an inconvenience, especially since public transportation is shut down and they can’t get to work, appointments, etc. Of the handful of people I spoke to, no one is joining the protestors today.

I’m quite surprised by the organized nature of the protest – of what I’ve seen so far – and I’m curious what impact it’ll have. I feel very much like an (ignorant) outsider today, as I don’t know enough about the government here to say one way or another whether this strike (the second general strike of the year) will influence change. (I do know that the economic crisis is very much on people’s minds – you can’t go a day without someone mentioning it here, and lamenting how bad it is.)

If you know more about the situation, comment here – or post a link to news sources that are covering it well.

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