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Spanish anti-austerity protesters, police clash

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An anti-austerity demonstration that drew tens of thousands of people from across Spain to central Madrid has turned violent, leaving 88 injured and 29 arrested as protesters clashed with security forces.

On Saturday, some protesters sought to break through a police barrier and make their way toward the nearby headquarters of the ruling conservative Popular Party.

Riot police then attacked the protesters, who hurled bottles and other objects, and beat them back with batons.

One police vehicle and a bank were damaged by rioters. Police said in a statement that six officers were injured and 12 people were arrested.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, six columns of protesters — each representing a different region of Spain — arrived at the outskirts of Madrid before heading to Plaza de Colon in the center of the city.

Protesters chanting slogans against government’s austerity measures and spending cuts filled Madrid’s principal boulevard, Paseo del Prado, by late afternoon.

The mass rally, dubbed “the Marches for Dignity 22-M”, included trade unions, civil servants and organizations representing people evicted from their homes for not being able to make mortgage payments after losing their jobs.

Spain has been struggling to deal with its worst economic crisis since World War II, which has left millions of Spaniards jobless and unable to make a living.

A fifth of the country’s population is living under the poverty threshold as defined by the European Union’s Statistics Office (Eurostat). The dearth of jobs and the deepest austerity in more than 30 years have pushed average household income down 10 percent since 2008.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government has been sharply criticized over its austerity measures.

Spaniards have staged numerous protests against the government’s spending cuts, arguing that austerity measures have resulted in more job losses in recent years.


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