Anti-austerity protest turns violent in Spanish capital

MADRID Sat Mar 22, 2014 7:39pm EDT

1 of 7. Riot police confront protesters after disturbances broke out at the end of a demonstration which organisers have labelled the 'Marches of Dignity' in Madrid, March 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Paul Hanna

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MADRID (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards rallied in Madrid on Saturday against poverty and EU-imposed austerity in a largely peaceful protest later marred by violent clashes in which police fired rubber bullets.

Some protesters started to throw stones and bottles at the large numbers of riot police present and attacked cashpoints and hoardings. The police fired rubber bullets to disperse them, according to video footage seen by Reuters.

Central government representative Cristina Cifuentes said 19 protesters had been arrested and 50 police officers had been injured, one of them very badly, in the clashes.

The so-called "Dignity Marches" brought hundreds of thousands to the capital, according to estimates of Reuters witnesses. Travelling from all over Spain, they were protesting in support of more than 160 different causes, including jobs, housing, health, education and an end to poverty.

Banners urged the conservative government not to pay its international debts and to tackle Spain's chronically high unemployment of 26 percent.

"Bread, jobs and housing for everyone", read one banner, "Corruption and robbery, Spain's trademark," said another.

The OECD says the economic crisis has hit Spain's poor harder than in any other country in the group.

"I'm here to fight for my children's future," said Michael Nadeau, a 44-year-old entrepreneur.

"For those who are in power we're just numbers. They value money more than they value people," he said, shouting to be heard above the din of chanting, whistling and drumming.

A housing bubble burst more than five years ago, forcing a 41-billion euro ($56 billion) bailout of Spain's banks, squeezing homeowners and throwing millions out of work.

The government introduced public sector austerity to whittle down the deficit, provoking widespread anger amongst middle- and low-income families as dozens of cases of corruption in the ruling class are investigated by judges.

"(I'm here because) I'm sick of this system they call democracy," said Jose Luis Arteaga, a 58-year-old teacher whose wage has been cut 20 percent. "I want things to change."

(Additional reporting by Raquel Castillo and Elisabeth O'Leary; Writing by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Comments (7)
tbird7553 wrote:
It would have been helpful had the journalists reported what OECD stood for!
What caused the austerity measures to be implemented? Was it the bailout of the banks? Or was it mismanagement of the economy by the Spanish government? Or was it the entitlement mentality of the Spanish populace? Or all of these?

Mar 22, 2014 3:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
fredayers wrote:
This is what happened when you turn health care, education and housing over to a federal government: When the government runs out of money, there are cuts. It is the same danger Obamacare poses in the US. If all health care were to remain private, funded by employers, there would not be cuts when the government has to implement “austerity measures.” Schools should be funded by communities through local property taxes, period. Housing should remain private. When you turn these things over to a national government, thinking that the government will take care of you from cradle to grave, the dream soon becomes a nightmare.

Mar 22, 2014 4:37pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
carlmartel wrote:
These are more of the problems of EU austerity that have plagued the EU since 2008. Now, they prepare to impose it on Ukraine that has a history of removing presidents, electing protest leaders, electing former leaders when protesters fail to deliver improved economies, and overthrowing presidents again over politically inspired economic policies. Economic crises can make governments appear to become games of musical chairs.

Mar 22, 2014 6:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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