From 'Occupying' A Spanish Bank To City Hall: Barcelona's New Mayor : Parallels The status quo took a hit in Spanish elections over the weekend. A major upset came in Barcelona with a win by Ada Colau, a prominent activist who fought evictions during Spain's economic crisis.
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From 'Occupying' A Spanish Bank To City Hall: Barcelona's New Mayor

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From 'Occupying' A Spanish Bank To City Hall: Barcelona's New Mayor

From 'Occupying' A Spanish Bank To City Hall: Barcelona's New Mayor

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When Spain's economy crashed hard a few years ago, the conservative party in power reacted by imposing severe spending cuts. Now voters have reacted by turning left. In yesterday's local elections, many voters elected members of a left-wing party that grew out of Spain's Occupy movement. That includes the incoming Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau. Lauren Frayer reports.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: One of the most tweeted photos today in Spain shows Ada Colau being hauled away by riot police. The photo's from July 2013 when she was trying to occupy a Barcelona bank that was foreclosing on homes - the caption, welcome, new mayor. Colau is a 41-year-old activist who made her name by physically trying to block police from serving eviction notices. She's been detained by police dozens of times. Testifying before parliament two years ago, she spoke right after a representative of Spain's banking industry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADA COLAU: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "This man is a criminal, and he should be treated like one," she said, her voice shaking with rage. Lawmakers' jaws dropped, but her speech endeared Colau to millions of Spaniards hurt by layoffs and austerity.

ANTONIO ROLDAN: She's transparent. She's honest. She speaks the language of the people.

FRAYER: Analyst Antonio Roldan is at the Eurasia Group in London. He says Spaniards fed up with unemployment and corruption chose grassroots activists like Colau over the two parties that have ruled Spain for decades - the Socialists and the ruling conservative Popular Party.

ROLDAN: The Popular Party had absolute majorities in almost all regions, and now they have none. So it's a new period of somehow cleaning up the corrupt establishment.

FRAYER: The man who hopes to lead these grassroots activists to national power is Pablo Iglesias, a 36-year-old political science professor with a ponytail. He heads the new left-wing party Podemos - We Can in Spanish.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PABLO IGLESIAS: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "We're not like other politicians supported by the banks. Our creditors are the people," Iglesias said at a rally for Colau in Barcelona. He hopes momentum from these local victories can propel left-wing activists to power in Spain's national elections later this year. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.

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