Fearless Cities describes municipal reform campaigns in fifty cities and 19 countries. Its contributors include activists and elected officials in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, England, Chile, Argentina, Serbia, Germany, Kurdish-controlled northern Syria, Canada, and the U.S. It contains a series of “organizing tool-kits,” which offer practical advice about rooting out political corruption, reducing pollution, protecting tenants and immigrants and creating opportunities for citizen engagement like "participatory budgeting."
In 2015, a wave of social movements lifted left-wing mayors to power in Spain. Their experience in office shows the importance of linking institutional power to bottom-up mobilization.
Protestors opposing a march by police association JUSAPOL in Barcelona, Spain doused police lines with paint and powder before being violently dispersed. Pro-independence protestors and antifa activists clashed with Catalan police at a rally to oppose a manifestation organized by JUSTAPOL (Spanish National Police and Guardia Civil Union) in support of the operation against last year’s referendum on Catalonian independence.
Thousands of people have marched in Barcelona to demand the formation of a new government in Spain's Catalonia region leading to its independence from Madrid despite formidable legal obstacles. Some 45,000 people joined the 'Republic Now' march called by the influential pro-independence citizens' group ANC, city police said. "There are more than two million of us citizens of Catalonia who want to go forward now, clearly, towards the Catalan republic," ANC vice president Agusti Alcoberro told reporters. Separatist parties won an absolute majority of seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament in a snap election on 21 December but have so far failed to form a new government. Catalonia's two main separatist parties last week proposed a new referendum on a constitution of the "Catalan republic".
A Spanish newspaper, El País, has reported that the City of Barcelona is in the process of migrating its computer system to Open Source technologies. According to the news report, the city plans to first replace all its user applications with alternative open source applications. This will go on until the only remaining proprietary software will be Windows where it will finally be replaced with a Linux distribution. The City has plans for 70% of its software budget to be invested in open source software in the coming year. The transition period, according to Francesca Bria (Commissioner of Technology and Digital Innovation at the City Council) will be completed before the mandate of the present administrators come to an end in Spring 2019.
By Staff of Common Dreams - "Wearing yellow ribbons on their lapels to signify support, they filled the length of the Avenue Marina that runs from the beach to Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia church, while the jailed leaders' families made speeches," The Independent reports. "Catalonia's two main grassroots independence groups called the march, under the slogan 'Freedom for the political prisoners,' after their leaders were remanded in custody on charges of sedition last month." The march on Saturday followed a series of related demonstrations in recent weeks. On October 16, "around 200,000 people (according to calculations by the municipal police) came out to protest the jailing of the heads of the pro-independence ANC and Òmnium associations, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart," the Spanish newspaper El Pais reports. "On October 21, another protest calling for their release saw 450,000 people take to the streets of the Catalan capital." In early October, the Spanish government mobilized a violent police force in hopes of quashing a regional independence referendum, but the movement for Catalan independence and subsequent actions by the Spanish central government in Madrid have left the wealthy region deeply divided. Those who were able to cast ballots last month overwhelmingly supported independence. Since regional leaders defied Madrid and declared independence in late October, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has imposed direct rule on the region."Wearing yellow ribbons on their lapels to signify support, they filled the length of the Avenue Marina that runs from the beach to Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia church, while the jailed leaders' families made speeches," The Independent reports. "Catalonia's two main grassroots independence groups called the march, under the slogan 'Freedom for the political prisoners,' after their leaders were remanded in custody on charges of sedition last month." The march on Saturday followed a series of related demonstrations in recent weeks. On October 16, "around 200,000 people (according to calculations by the municipal police) came out to protest the jailing of the heads of the pro-independence ANC and Òmnium associations, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart," the Spanish newspaper El Pais reports. "On October 21, another protest calling for their release saw 450,000 people take to the streets of the Catalan capital." In early October, the Spanish government mobilized a violent police force in hopes of quashing a regional independence referendum, but the movement for Catalan independence and subsequent actions by the Spanish central government in Madrid have left the wealthy region deeply divided. Those who were able to cast ballots last month overwhelmingly supported independence. Since regional leaders defied Madrid and declared independence in late October, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has imposed direct rule on the region.
By Joseph Wilson for AP - BARCELONA, Spain — Thousands of people were rallying Sunday in downtown Barcelona to protest the Catalan government’s push for secession from the rest of Spain. Many in the crowd gathered in a central square carried Spanish and Catalan flags. Some chanted “Don’t be fooled, Catalonia is Spain” and called for Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to go to prison. Sunday’s rally comes a week after Puigdemont and other separatist leaders of the Catalan government held a referendum on secession that Spain’s top court had suspended and the Spanish government said was illegal. The “Yes” side won the referendum with 90 percent of the vote, though less than half of the region’s electorate voted. Puigdemont has pledged to push ahead for independence anyway and is set to address the regional parliament on Tuesday “to report on the current political situation.” Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vows that his government will not allow Catalonia to break away from the rest of the country. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais published Sunday, Rajoy said that he will consider employing any measure “allowed by the law” to stop the region’s separatists. Rajoy said that includes the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which would allow the central government to take control of the governance of a region “if the regional government does not comply with the obligations of the Constitution.”
By Esquerra Revolucionària for Socialist Alternative - On the 11th September one million people spilled onto the streets of Barcelona shouting loud and clear their intention to vote during the 1st October referendum, making it clear that they were not going to let the ruling Partido Popular (People’s Party/PP) deny them this right. Yet again, as has happened on each Diada [‘National Day of Catalonia’] since 2012, the Catalan people have demanded their right to democratically decide what links they wish to maintain with the rest of the Spanish state, including their legitimate right to independence. Against this protest in support of the right to decide, which the Catalan people are overwhelmingly in favour of (as confirmed by all the polls) backed up by increasing support from the those who live in the Spanish state, as a whole, the PP government and the Spanish bourgeois are using repressive measures not seen since the Francoist dictatorship; police raids and continual harassment against the press; judicial intervention to prevent a political event from taking place in Madrid concerning the right of self-determination; news censorship preventing the Catalan TV channel 3 from showing content on the referendum. The offensive has taken unprecedented steps and not just against freedom of expression and association.
By Carlos Delclós for ROAR Magazine - On February 18, over 160.000 people took to the streets of Barcelona to demand that the Spanish government and the European Union accept more refugees. The build-up to the protests was spectacular, with the city and Catalan regional governments working together with broad citizen platforms to put the phrase “We want to welcome” (Volem acollir) on everybody’s lips. For several weeks, leading politicians including Barcelona mayor Ada Colau and Catalan president Carles Puigdemont lambasted Spain’s current policies towards refugees. One week prior to the protest, a special concert was organized by a campaign called Casa nostra, Casa vostra (“Our house, your house”), not in a civic center or public square but in an Olympic stadium. The event was aired on Catalan public television and featured major Catalan artists and cultural figures.
By David Bollier for Shareable - On a visit to Barcelona last week, I learned a great deal about the city’s pioneering role in developing "the city as a commons." I also learned that crystallizing a new commons paradigm -- even in a city committed to cooperatives and open digital networks -- comes with many gnarly complexities. The Barcelona city government is led by former housing activist Ada Colau, who was elected mayor in May 2015. She is a leader of the movement that became the political party Barcelona En Comú (“Barcelona in Common”). Once in office, Colau halted the expansion of new hotels, a brave effort to prevent “economic development” (i.e., tourism) from hollowing out the city’s lively, diverse neighborhoods.
Ben Adler for Grist - The city’s plan will create “superblocks” that cars, buses, and trucks must go around, with exceptions for local residents and deliveries at off-peak times. Despite the ominous name, these pedestrian paradises won’t be like their infamous American counterparts — the towering mega-projects that destroyed the urban fabric in the name of Urban Renewal. And with all that valuable space now available, Barcelonians are beginning to find better uses for their streets...
By Dan Hancox for the Guardian. Ada Colau was there to discuss the housing crisis that had devastated Spain. Since the financial crisis, 400,000 homes had been foreclosed and a further 3.4m properties lay empty. In response, Colau had helped to set up a grassroots organisation, the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH), which championed the rights of citizens unable to pay their mortgages or threatened with eviction. Founded in 2009, the PAH quickly became a model for other activists, and a nationwide network of leaderless local groups emerged. Soon, people across Spain were joining together to campaign against mortgage lenders, occupy banks and physically block bailiffs from carrying out evictions. Ten minutes into Colau’s 40-minute testimony she broke from the script. Her voice cracking with emotion, she turned her attention to the previous speaker, Javier Rodriguez Pellitero, the deputy general secretary of the Spanish Banking Association: “This man is a criminal, and should be treated as such. He is not an expert. The representatives of financial institutions have caused this problem; they are the same people who have caused the problem that has ruined the entire economy of this country – and you keep calling them experts.”
By Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel for Commons Transition - Cities have personalities -- they're often described as we would people. They can be dry, manic, laid-back, iconic. Barcelona is what you might call a tonic. Always known as a vivid and creative city, Barcelona is taking the lead as an exemplary change agent on the European stage. Its DIY vigor and urgent form of citizen-level democracy are palpable, contagious, and best of all, effective.
By Timothy Ginty in RoarMag - In February 2009, after the Spanish government had shown itself incapable of enforcing Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution — declaring that “all Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing” — a citizens’ assembly was held in Barcelona to establish the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages, or the PAH (Spanish: Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca), a social movement which would wait for neither government action nor market corrections for this right to be enforced. The PAH’s immediate aims are simple — the prevention of the systematic eviction of tens of thousands of debtors across Spain — but its larger dream is bolder: the achievement of the socio-economic conditions in which the human right to housing may be secure.