Puerta del Sol Protest
Read here for part one of the evening.
After I was done looking through the four floors of art, I thought I would wander around downtown and see what I could find.
I walked for maybe 40 minutes and happened upon a street that looked much busier than all of the rest. A multitude of blue flashing lights piqued my curiosity. Police cars. For people who know me well, I’m a sucker for flashing lights. I’ve been known to follow police cars or firetrucks hoping to see something and maybe make a nice frame. Call me an adrenaline junkie; I won’t deny it.
As I walked down the bustling side streets in the heart of Madrid, I found myself in Puerta del Sol. As I crept closer, I counted at least 18 paddy wagon-esqe vehicles supporting the 110-or-so observing officers. They were dressed in nearly full riot gear, minus the shields and helmets. They lined the street and surrounded the plaza, ready to quash any violence. I saw perhaps a thousand people in the large, public plaza. Disregarding the cold, no more than 26° F, at least a few hundred of those people were actively protesting, chanting, and yelling. There was passion.
There was one man, who seemed to be a leader of the demonstration, that got the attention of one of the many news videographers that was covering the event. The videographer trained his camera on the protester. After an impassioned, whole-hearted plea, the man thanked the camera man with a hug and a big, Spanish kiss on the cheek. Without defense, the videographer accepted both.
The videographer looked at me and the people surrounding him and gave a shrug. It was like the protester broke through to the human behind the video camera, and he had to play it off to the people around him. From my perspective, it felt like the protester broke through the videographer’s emotion-resistant shield that many journalists wear when doing their job.
All of the protesters were chanting in Spanish, but from what I picked up, this was about their lives, their freedom. The protester’s on-camera plea gave me a feeling that something important was going on and they felt compelled to fight it. I could feel it, the videographer could feel it. Their pleas were engaging, even with the language barrier, that, for a second, I forgot I was there to document the event.
The crowd was generally peaceful. There were no bottles being thrown or people who crossed the line between passion and aggression. However, there was a subtle hint of tension between the 100+ cops and the large group of protesters. They seemed to be getting closer to one another. I think the other dozen or so photojournalists that were there could feel tension rising. There wasn’t anything blatantly obvious, but there was a certain hum among the journalists.
Not expecting to be out in the cold covering a protest, I was not dressed for the weather. Sensation in my fingers and toes was slipping away. Nothing big seemed imminent and having no desire to deal with numb fingers and toes due to serious frost bite, I decided to call it a night.
My first protest was a fun experience. I’m looking forward to shooting more. I’ve got a long way to go. Hopefully next time it won’t be -3° C so I can take more time to see and shoot.