Anti-austerity anger keeps shaking Spain

Anti-austerity anger keeps shaking Spain

MADRID- The Associated Press
Anti-austerity anger keeps shaking Spain

Protesters fill up Neptuno Square as riot police stand guard next to a barrier closing the street outside Spanish Parliament during an anti-austerity demonstration in Madrid. REUTERS photo

Tens of thousands of Spaniards and Portuguese rallied in the streets of their countries’ capitals over the weekend to protest enduring deep economic pain from austerity measure, and the demonstration in Madrid turned violent after Spaniards enraged over a long-lasting recession and sky-high unemployment clashed with riot police for the third time in less than a week near Parliament.

The latest violence came after thousands of Spaniards who had marched close to the Parliament building in downtown Madrid protested peacefully for hours. Police with batons later moved in just before midnight to clear out those who remained late because no permission had been obtained from authorities to hold the demonstration.

‘Fire them!’

Some protesters responded by throwing bottles and rocks. An Associated Press photographer saw police severely beat one protester who was taken away in an ambulance.

Spain’s state TV said early yesterday that two people were hurt and 12 detained near the barricades erected in downtown Madrid to shield the Parliament building. Television images showed police charging protesters and hitting them with their batons, but the violence did not appear as severe as a protest earlier last week when 64 injured. Earlier, the boisterous crowds let off ear-splitting whistles and yelled “Fire them, fire them!” - referring to the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and venting their anger against tax hikes, spending cuts and the highest unemployment rate among the 17 nations that use the euro currency.

On Sept. 28, Rajoy’s administration presented a 2013 draft budget that will cut overall spending by 40 billion euros ($51.7 billion), freezing the salaries of public workers, cutting spending for unemployment benefits and even reducing spending for Spain’s royal family next year by 4 percent.

Madrid authorities put the number of protesters at 4,500 - though demonstrators said the crowd was larger. In neighboring Portugal, tens of thousands took to the streets of Lisbon on Sept. 29 in the afternoon to peacefully protest against even deeper austerity cutbacks than Spain has imposed.

Investors worried about Spain’s economic viability have forced up the interest rate they are willing to pay to buy Spanish bonds. The country’s banks hurting from a property boom that went bust are set to get help soon from a 100 billion euros ($129 billion) financial lifeline from the eurozone.