Spaniards enraged by politicians’ failure to reverse economic policies that have left one in two young people out of work took to the streets in force over the weekend.
The country’s Interior Ministry said 72,000 people marched against regressive austerity measures in Madrid, Barcelona and six other large cities — but protesters said that this was a gross underestimate.
The rallies were staged as part of a global day of action in which thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow, New York and Athens.
The epicentre of the global anti-austerity protest was in Madrid, where up to 100,000 people flooded into the central Puerta del Sol plaza in the evening, chanting “they don’t represent us” and vowing to stay put for three days.
“I’m here to defend the rights that we’re losing and for the young people who have it so tough,” said secondary school teacher Roberto Alonso. “They’re better educated than ever. But they don’t have work. They don’t have anything. They’re behind and they’ll stay that way.”
Authorities warned they wouldn’t allow anyone to camp out as happened in 2011.
The demonstrators stayed put after a midnight deadline to leave and more than 2,000 riot police on duty cleared the square in the early hours, arresting 18 people for resisting arrest or disorderly conduct.
Elsewhere at least 30,000 people demonstrated in Barcelona while marches were also held in Bilbao, Malaga and Seville and scores of other towns.
Spain is in recession with no end in sight and unemployment now stands at 25 per cent — the highest among the 17 countries using the euro.
One in two Spaniards under the age of 25 is out of work.
Many people blame Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government’s deep public spending cuts for deepening families’ financial plight.
Mr Rajoy, who insists that the measures are necessary to to reduce the national debt, is planning a fresh round of austerity measures, including freezes on the minimum wage and cuts to health care and education spending as well as further attacks of pensioners’ benefits.
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The Con-Dems have had it their way too long. We have to turn this country around