When the meeting ended around 10 p.m. Friday, one of Unidos Podemos’ advisers in Madrid’s City Hall took back the mic and signaled for everyone to remain still: “They tell us that some members of the People’s Party have called the police to come here to denounce us because this may have been an illegal meeting, without permits.” A few people laughed. It was a clumsy attempt to discredit the rally. The man with the microphone shook his head and continued. “In fact, we do have permission, and we answer those ridiculous accusations like we always do: with a smile.” Applause.
This was one of the many meetings organized by Unidos Podemos in the final days leading up to Sunday’s election, in which Podemos seemed on pace to upset the socialist PSOE with a second-place finish but appear to have failed, finishing in third but stripping the People’s Party of a majority. The Podemos events were scattered throughout the city: bike rides, concerts and, in this June heat, frozen lemonade. They were political meetings without gimmicks and marked by a popular will to wrest back “the power.”
At the ends of these events, the attendees tend not to go home; they gather closer together for a chance to speak with Unidos Podemos representatives. In some cases, chairs are placed in a semi-circle where future deputies, members of European Parliament and city councillors talk directly with votes. The questions are often precise and require sincere, unambiguous answers: This is not a TV studio.