From Madison to Occupy Wall Street, the economy led as the most covered news story in U.S. news coverage for 2011, according to Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Much of that attention was driven by protests against growing income inequality here in the United States, as well as globally.
For an international communication seminar project last semester, I wanted to examine how social movements use information communication technologies to challenge the dominant economic order. To do so, I chose to compare Occupy Wall Street with the Spanish 15M, or Indignados movement, which may be less familiar to a U.S. audience.
On May 15, 2011, one week before municipal elections, thousands took to the streets in 50 Spanish cities to protest corruption and demand “real democracy,” calling for crisis management by “the people and not the banks” (see Periodismo Humano). Forty demonstrators gathered in Madrid’s main square, Puerta del Sol, into evening of May 15 talking about the country’s future decided to stay. In the early morning hours of May 16, those in the plaza made a key tactical decision to negotiate with police over their presence, who allowed them to stay the night. And they camped, sparking what is now know as the 15M movement, for the date of its commencement, or #SpanishRevolution after one of the movement’s main Twitter hashtags.
As events of the past year illustrate, while the social problems associated with economic globalization are correspondingly globalized, protest actions such as Occupy and 15M are place-based.