Lisbon on the Move

Photo by Esad Hajdarevic

Lisbon, November 14, 1130 hrs.

Dear people,

Yesterday I met up with a comrade from the Communications commission of the Indignados Lisboa. He later took me to an anarchist hide-out where banners were being prepared for the general strike, and where I had the opportunity to meet other people active in local assemblies and working groups. They filled me on the history of our movement in Portugal.

Bear in mind that the scale of the protests here is in no way comparable to what happened in Spain. When it all started, last year in May, there was an acampada of the Indignados Lisboa in the central Rossio square. The people who organised it were not an heterogeneous mix of citizens, they came specifically from anti-militarist groups opposed to NATO. The acampada lasted two weeks, and ended like most camps do, in internal struggle and decay.

In October, when the fall wave rose, there was another encampment, this time in front of parliament, and this time inspired by what was happening in the USA. It was called ‘Occupy Lisbon’, and it was a distinct group from the Indignados Lisboa.

Unlike Spain, where the 15M is kind of an overarching movement of many different struggles, in Portugal the resistance consists of independent movements which loosely collaborate. Among these are not only Occupy and the Indignados, but also the Zeitgeist movement, Anonymous and various unions and semi-political organisations.

In February of this year a nationwide encounter of popular assemblies was held in Coimbra. Later on, in April and May, activists met in Lisbon to exchange ideas and coordinate struggles. But it wasn’t until September 15 that the movement in Portugal really took off.

That day, two months ago, an estimated one million people all over the country took the streets and forced the government to swallow the latest austerity measures. Considering the fact that Portugal only has about ten million inhabitants, the number was enormous.

Since then, the government has disguised the same austerity measures in different ways, and the people have made a habit out of demonstrating and striking. Every week, more or less.

From what I hear, the situation is not as tragic as Spain as far as evictions go, but the privatisation of everything, including health care and water is dangerously looming over the country, here as elsewhere in the South of Europe.

In the anarchist cove I met the two people who form the Lisbon audiovisual team, broadcasting from And as they explain to me their way of working I realise how technologically advanced we are in Madrid. We can cover any small event with one or two streamers, who can operate independently without need of a laptop or a generator. In case of big events we can deploy four to eight streamers (‘cells’ or ‘units’), sometimes even more. We can mix everything comfortably from a studio while keeping an eye on the headlines from around the world.

Here in Portugal, our comrades have one laptop and a couple of webcams at their disposal. They use a car to function as generator for the laptop. Still, they make maximum use of the limited means at their disposal, but they need more people. And I wonder, in a few years time, looking back, we will be amazed about how primitive our current technology is. And at the same time we will be happy that we were there to witness the pioneers of this amazing technology called ‘livestream’.