Anarchist 1st May in Portugal


On May 1, 2011 in the city of Setubal in Portugal, for the second consecutive year, the anti-authoritarian and anti capitalist May Day protest took place. The event was organised by the anarchist collective, called Terra Libre. Approximately 200 people from various parts of Portugal joined the demonstration, together with some collectives and organizations such as the anarcho-syndicalist union of ΑΙΤ and the Antiwar Platform against NATO (PAGAN).

The march moved peacefully through the main streets of the city, with protesters shouting anti-state slogans (“the people united, do not need a party, ” self-organization”, ” organized people do not need the State”) and handing out leaflets. The response of the locals was positive.

Heavy police was absent during the protest but they appeared when the march reached its final destination, close to the historic neighborhood of Fonte Nova: Everything started when a protester was asked to provide some ID. Soon six other armed men appeared, assaulting the man who was participating in the protest by driving a car and playing music. The officers initially asked him to lower the volume. The atmosphere turned to be aggressive when some officers managed to isolate four protesters who had no IDs as well, and three others who tried to help them. The officers responded with physical violence and pepper spray attacks. They also threw rubber bullets against other demonstrators, and, as some claim, real fire in the air was heard.

The protesters regrouped and counter-attacked with stones, using umbrellas and tables from a nearby restaurant to defend themselves from shots, and finally achieved to temporarily repel the officers who later on re-organized again. At that time, the police chose not to approach the neighbourhood, perhaps fearing widespread conflict with other locals, as there were many who tried to defend themselves on the side of demonstrators. Instead, the officers were waiting around the corner for the time where the demonstrators would have to depart. As one protester said:

What we saw in Setúbal was an attempt to impose terrorism police in a demonstration of solidarity and full of vigorous revolt against an intolerable situation: the attack on capitalism and the interference of the IMF in Portugal.
The total number of those injured either by the use of batons or tear gas and rubber bullets (while there are reports in the Portuguese Indymedia that one person was hit by real bullets in both knees) is estimated to be around 30. Most were helped by residents of Setubal. In overall, at least 12 were arrested. All of them claim wild beatings during their transfer to police stations or inside the detention centres. Many people were hit in the neck and a lot of people were hit in the back and abdomen. It should be reported also that this event did not attract the interest of the mainstream media that were completely focused on the death of Osama Bin Laden…

The country’s background

Marcelo Caetano, the last prime minister of the Estado Novo regime, appearing on Conversas em Família (Family Conversations) on November 19, 1971, a television program broadcast by RTP.
Portugal, like Spain, suffered from a dictatorship that lasted for almost 4 decades. The Estado Novo (“New State“) as it was called the authoritarian regime installed in 1933 following the army-led coup d’état of 28 May 1926 against the democratic First Republic , was mainly inspired by conservative and nationalist ideologies. It was developed by António de Oliveira Salazar, who served in power from 1932 to 1968. The Estado Novo was opposed to communism, anarchism and anti-colonialism, supported pro-Roman Catholic positions and advocated the retention of Portuguese colonies as a pluricontinental empire. During this period of Estado Novo rule, political parties were illegal, secret police consistently was trying to repress basic civil liberties and political freedoms in order to remain in power. The only legal political party was the União Nacional (National Union), which was in favour of monarchism, corporatism, para-fascism, nationalism, and capitalism. Communists, anarchists, Republicans, and anyone opposed to the regime was intensely persecuted. The regime collapsed after a left-leaning military coup (known as the Carnation Revolution), started on 25 April 1974, which restored liberal democracy. However, many authoritarian pro-dictatorship elements have remained within security forces.

Portugal has been hit severely by the economic crisis. The official unemployment rates in 2009 reached 10% nationwide and, by 2010, it was about 11%. On April 6 2011, the resigned Prime Minister, José Sócrates announced on the State television that the country, was “under the threat of bankruptcy” and for that reason it would request financial support from the Iternational Monetary Fund and the European Financial Stability Facility, exactly as Greece and Ireland had done before. This was the third time that Portugal asks a “helping hand” from the IMF.

According to Xaquin Pastoriza (Monday, 29 November 2010):

Portugal is one of the weakest links of European capitalism. After the Greek economy was put under the control of the European Union and the IMF in March, the pressure has increased on Ireland and Portugal. In fact, Ireland has just accepted the intervention of international economic agencies after falling prey to the blackmail of the financial markets. Portugal seems to be the next target. According to Barclays Capital, quoted by Diário de Notícias, it is likely that Portugal will have to be bailed out during the first months of 2011, with an approximate amount of 34 billion Euro, which represents 20% of Portuguese GDP. The budget deficit (9.6%) is less than the two digits figures of Greece, Ireland or Spain, but the Portuguese economy is in a critical state that invites attack by these financial sharks known euphemistically as “the markets”. Public debt is near 85%, when EU rules only allow a 60% maximum, but the problem is that companies and individuals are heavily indebted , bringing total debt (public, corporate and household) to a staggering 223% of GDP. Portuguese risk premium peaked at 406 points, very close to the Irish and twice that of Spain. In addition, the latest unemployment rate figure just released is 10.9%, an historical high.

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