Portugal witnessed a different type of protest against the ‘Troika’ - the united force of the International Monetary Fund, the BCE and the European Council - last Saturday 13th October. In 23 cities around the country and some overseas (namely in Brazil) artists, musicians, poets, actors, street artists and many others joined the “Screw the Troika” protest. This was a cultural protest on a national scale, with some 60,000 in Lisbon, 10,000 in Porto, and many more across the country.
In Lisbon there was an 8-hour protest marathon of culture and politics - some have called it Woodstroika. At 5pm, after the end of a trade-union 10-day march against unemployment, the protest was launched with a performance by an ad-hoc symphonic orchestra performing Beethoven's 5th Symphony. Theatrical performances by some of Portugal's actors, dancers and poets accompanied political speeches and music until the small hours.
On the stage in many cities were some of Portugal lead performers, expressing their support for the fight against austerity and performing songs against this government, the troika and austerity.
Portugal’s most famous performers joined the protest, from rappers to lyric choirs, punk rock to folk and pop music. There was a massive display of support for the current struggle, planned and organized by cultural agents and political activists. "Screw the Troika - Culture is Resistance!" was the slogan of this protest; it represented a step forward towards a cultural movement against austerity.
Old revolutionary songs blended with new ones, as musicians that were highly influential in the 1974 revolution joined younger artists in creating a new culture against austerity.
Art and showbusiness professionals are in a dire situation due to recurrent budget cuts. They used this moment to voice their situation, acknowledging that their situation is the situation of the Portuguese people. They came forward to show solidarity and unity with the international movement against austerity.
Actor João Reis read a statement written by the organizers of the protest (a group of artists, technicians and political activists that organized the Screw The Troika - We Want Our Lives protests last month). It proposed the next step: a mass demonstration to reject the state budget on October 31st. With the slogan "O orçamento não passará!" - “The budget shall not pass” - the protest will see trade unions and social movements pull together to create a mass movement.
Next month there will be a General Strike on November 14th, co-ordinated with Spanish unions in an attempt to bring together the first ever Iberian general strike. The action is timed just after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit on November 12th.
This is an exciting time for political action in Portugal, with massive mobilisations of the people. The government is now politically and publicly dead. Only the President's inertia keeps it afloat; the streets demand the right-wing coalition's head and the end of austerity.
The protest in Lisbon ended with a song made popular by political prisoners during the Portugese dictatorship, a song that has been performed at many recent protests: Acordai! (Wake Up!).
It was a fitting end to a protest that joined an international movement, uniting the people behind the prospect of a decent future, emancipation and social justice. The people have awakened.
Wake up ye men that sleep rocking the pain of a wicked silence, come with the shouting virile souls
And pluck the tree whose root is asleep
Wake up thunders and typhoons that sleep in the sea and in the crowds
Come set alight the stars and the songs, the rocks and the seas, the world and the hearts
Lighten up with souls and suns this dockless' sea with no flash from lighthouses
And wake at last after the final struggles, our ancient heroes sleeping in the caves
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