RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
The president is in Ireland this morning at the start of a six day European trip. We'll hear more President Obama's Irish trip. But first to Spain, where young people have taken to the streets to protest austerity measures and joblessness. Youth unemployment in Spain is among the highest in Europe, with some estimates putting it as high as 45 percent. Sylvia Poggioli reports from Madrid, where tens of thousands of people are occupying the main square.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Madrid's central square, Puerta del Sol, has become an urban encampment - tents, chairs, couches and mattresses under blue tarpaulins. Volunteers provide day care for children. There are committees for cleaning and legal affairs and daily assemblies discuss the agenda.
Unidentified Woman: (Spanish language spoken)
POGGIOLI: An announcer warns it's hot, so people should drink lots of water. One slogan says, put your beer down, raise your voice.
At the food stand, Antonio Gomez says local restaurants help feed the campers.
ANTONIO GOMEZ: (Unintelligible) bread, cheese, and also vegetables and fruit, because there's many people are vegetarian.
POGGIOLI: A group of middle aged women brings bags of food.
FLOR GONZALEZ: (Foreign language spoken)
POGGIOLI: Flor Gonzalez says they've come in solidarity with those who have been called Spain's lost generation. They have no future, she says, all they have is this new community.
The sit-in started a week ago. It took everyone by surprise. On Monday, 300 people came. On Tuesday, police moved them out. Twitter and Facebook did the rest. By Wednesday, thousands were camping out, not only in Madrid, but also in a dozen other cities. Forty-two-year-old lawyer Cristina Ruiz is thrilled to be part of a civic society in-the-making.
CRISTINA RUIZ: (Through translator) In Spain, we don't have experience with feeling like a community and feeling power of citizenship.
POGGIOLI: The movement has no leaders. Its members are not just bohemians and leftists, but also conservatives. What they share is anger, lack of opportunities and the sense they've been deprived of their future. Juan Lopez is one of several spokesmen of what the media calls the new Spanish revolution.
JUAN LOPEZ: We are not against the system, but we want a change in the system. Also we think that the voice of the people is not being listened. We want a change in the future, not in the future, we want a change in the present, we demand a change and we want it right now.
POGGIOLI: Lopez is 30 years old. Six months ago he lost his job as a marketing manager at a multinational IT company. He's a sample of one of Spain's most devastating statistics - not only does the country have Europe's highest unemployment, nearly half of those under 30 are jobless.
So far, Spain has not needed an international bailout like Greece, Ireland and Portugal. But tough austerity measures have left the economy stagnant. Many slogans here take aim at international finance. Marketing analyst Xavier Leon lost his job two years ago and he's got a heavy mortgage. He blames the banks.
XAVIER LEON: The bankers from Lehman Brothers, Barclays bank, Spanish bankers, OK, all must be in jail.
POGGIOLI: By evening, the crowd swells to tens of thousands and spills into neighboring streets. In an impressive demonstration of collective self- discipline, Spain's indigniados - the angry ones - have produced Europe's biggest protest movement. The message in their slogans is clear: If you take away our dreams, we won't let you sleep.
Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Madrid.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.