24 detained in Madrid protest vs govt spending


MADRID: Spanish police detained 24 people during street violence late on Saturday following a large anti-austerity demonstration in Madrid in which dozens were injured, a police spokesman said.

Tens of thousands of people, some having walked from the farthest corners of Spain, marched though the streets of Madrid on Saturday to de–monstrate against spending cuts, sky-high unemployment and alleged corruption.

The peaceful protest—dubbed a “march for dignity”—took a violent turn in the late evening while most protesters dispersed as dozens of youths smashed the windows of several banks, set rubbish bins on fire, and threw rocks at police.

Police responded by firing rubber bullets and charging to disperse the protesters.

Twenty-four people were arrested, including three mi–nors, a police spokesman said on Sunday.

Emergency services said 101 people were hurt—67 police and 34 protesters—though none seriously.

Eight columns of protesters had converged on the Spanish capital Saturday—carrying flags from Andalucia in the south, Catalonia in the east, or northwestern Asturias—at the culmination of nearly a month of walking for some of the protesters.

They were joined by unions and many civic groups that emerged out of the mass “Indignados” protests of 2011 and 2012 when the crisis first hit. The Indignados were seen as forerunners of the “Occupy” movement that spread around the world.

The “march for dignity” came after two years of bruising austerity measures imposed by Spain’s conservative govern–ment as part of a bid to close one of the highest public deficits in the eurozone.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, in power since December 2011, has imposed harsh spending cuts and tax rises aimed at saving 150 billion euros ($207 billion) between 2012 and 2014.

Austerity has left Spain in a prolonged economic funk, with more than 26 percent of the population—and half of under-25s—out of work.

A protest is scheduled for Sunday evening in Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square to demand the release of the 24 who were arrested at Saturday’s march.

Several hundred people gathered in a square in front of Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum on Sunday to decide on future joint protests like Saturday’s “march for dignity.”

“We are going to try to unite, to coordinate,” Lucia Calderon, a 29-year-old photographer and member of the “Indignados” protest move–ment who travelled to Madrid for Saturday’s march from Seville, told Agence France-Presse.

“That is the goal. If we don’t work together, the impact will be much smaller,” she added.

Protests are scheduled Monday outside Spain’s stock exchange and the economy ministry.



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