By IEISHAH CLELLAND
“Why are you here?” a journalist from Publico shouted over the joyous din in Plaza Catalunya, the main square of Barcelona. Pots and pans, whistles, vuvuzelas left over from World Cup celebrations a year ago. “As an American,” he clarified, jotting down my name and hometown. “What is the Spanish Revolution to you?”
For me, it began with a cacerolada– a uniquely Spanish form of protest wherein the people express outrage against the government by clanging pots and pans in a public forum. As an adopted daughter of the city, I loved that the atmosphere was traditional and progressive all at once. Over a few days in May 2011, Plaza Catalunya morphed into a full-on protest camp, and I showed up daily, keys in hand, because many of my friends were among the unemployed 20%. Because I couldn’t not be there. I jingled my keys in solidarity.
The morning of May 27th, or what Barcelona refers to as, 27M, I awoke to emails and twitter alerts of violence at the camp. The Catalan government had enlisted the police to forcibly evict the protestors in anticipation of a local football club’s UEFA Champions League win. They said the people would need the square to celebrate. The “people” maintained they needed the square for protest.
Armed with my Blackberry, I left my coffee cold on the kitchen counter and within minutes was facing down an officer with a rubber bullet gun. I tweeted and took photos. An old woman broke the barricade leading to the square. Women laid roses at the feet of officers behind riot shields. A group of officers began manhandling young men with protest signs. Across the street, a middle aged woman yelled at the officers, “Verguenza!” Shame! One turned and shoved her, too.
Crying, frustrated at the violent turn and unsure of my limits as a foreign national, I went home. News spread that the protestors had taken back the square. Without me.
As foreigners in foreign lands, when is their fight our fight?
Originally from New York and currently based in Barcelona, Ieishah Clelland is a freelance writer/blogger dedicated to the tracing and tracking of all things cross-culture. A serial expat, having lived in 6 countries over the last 13 years, Ieishah would consider Costa Rica the best, had she not almost drowned kayaking there