Tens of thousands join protests across Spain

Mon, May 14, 2012, 01:00

TENS OF thousands of protesters from the indignado (indignant) movement took part in rallies across Spain at the weekend, with police evicting a few hundred hardcore demonstrators from city squares during the largely peaceful protests.

At least 100,000 people took to the streets across dozens of towns and cities to mark the first anniversary of the Occupy Madrid’s movement.

A new conservative government led by Mariano Rajoy has banned protest camps this year. Police calmly moved into squares between 2am and 5am yesterday morning, when indignado numbers had reduced.

Eighteen people were arrested in Madrid as authorities worried about the impact of the anti-capitalist protests on financial markets. With Spain at the centre of the euro zone crisis, and Spaniards broadly sympathetic towards the peaceful movement, police appeared to be under instruction to avoid the kind of baton-wielding violence they used on indignados in Barcelona last year.

“The right to demonstrate has been combined with a lack of incidents and no camp-outs,” the interior ministry said. “The police operation came to an end at 5am on Sunday after a calm day.”

It was, however, the first of four days of protests, which come as Spain plunges back into recession and youth unemployment soars above 50 per cent.

Mr Rajoy’s government has imposed a fierce austerity programme that includes health and education cuts, as fellow euro zone countries demand it carries out a dramatic reduction in the deficit over the next two years. The measures have helped drive unemployment up to 24 per cent as investors demand ever-higher interest rates for loans to Spain, with 10-year bond yields now at 6 per cent.

Banks and bankers were also the targets of the protesters’ ire after a week that saw the country’s fourth-largest bank, Bankia, rescued with public money and part-nationalised. – (Guardian service)