The Occupation of Squares and the Squatting of Buildings
Miguel A. Martínez published a new article on social movements in Spain. The complete text is available online on the ACME website.

The M15 / Indignados movement in Spain responded to the financial crisis and neoliberal policies with a sudden and profound social mobilisation. The first prominent action of this movement consisted in the occupation of the main squares in different cities and neighbourhoods. These occupations and the regular assemblies that took place in the squares provided a salient feature of the initial political identity of the movement. This chapter seeks to explain why this specific aspect of both the movement's identity and repertoire of action, shifted from taking the squares to squatting buildings. Due to specific mechanisms such as similar ways of self-organisation, mutual aid and joint campaigns, we argue that a convergence between two different movements occurred: the M15 and the squatters' movement. This phenomenon has not received sufficient attention by social movements studies. Our explanation of this process of convergence rests mainly on what we call the 'cumulative chains of activist exchanges'. We contend that key events, such as the Stop Foreclosures campaign and the occupation of landmark buildings, and particular features of the process reinforced each other: the structural equivalence of the occupied camps and the squatted social centres, the turn of occupations into strategic ends, and the emergence of new sources of legitimation for squatting as a repertoire of action. Our study shows, in addition, the conflicts and persistent differences between both movements, both of which deserve consideration in order to understand the consequences of such a convergence. Our empirical evidence comes from a comparative analysis of the most salient cases of the M15-squats in Madrid, based on semi-structured interviews, secondary sources and participant observation.

Photo by Fotograccion, via Wikimedia Commons

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