A massive police escort accompanied tens of thousands of Spaniards marching on the country’s parliament in Madrid as part of anti-austerity protests.
The 2.3-kilometers march organized by the "Surround parliament" protest group was closely guarded by law enforcement with dog teams, vans with reinforced windows, officers in full riot gear as well as mounted police.
At the Parliament, the crowd was greeted by an even larger police presence and pushed them back behind a chain of metal rail barricades.
Demonstrators were protesting against the latest measures introduced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government as tens of thousands of jobs were lost in the third quarter with a bank bailout in sight.
“And now they are going to give banks a bailout, rescue them as if they were princesses,” Alan Pipo told the AP. “They should be put out on the streets, just like all those families who are being evicted from their homes because they are unable to keep up with mortgage payments! "
Demonstrators held a minute’s silence with their backs turned on parliament to show their condemnation of the government’s policies, that’s as a quarter of Spaniards are now unemployed.
The crowd also moved in front of Bankia Bank, where a group of protesters have been camping out since Monday, in an effort to pressure the bank to halt evictions that have so far affected 400,000 families in Spain.
Earlier on Saturday, nearly 3,000 off-duty police officers had also taken to the streets to voice their anger over austerity measures and the withdrawal of their Christmas bonuses.
Overall the Spanish economy has been struggling for years and now faces a staggering unemployment rate among the young of 52.34 per cent according to country’s National Statistical Institute.
In an effort to rebound the economic growth PM Rajoy has hiked taxes, cut spending and introduced harsh labor reforms in an effort to persuade investors that his government can manage Spain's financial trouble without a full bailout.
But some researchers believe that instead of cutting spending, it might be wise to increase it.
“The alternative is actually not to cut spending, but to invest in the economy, to invest in growth to make sure that there’re jobs. And the only way to ultimately get out of this debt, is to grow out of debt and not to cut your way of debt,” Jerome Roos, a researcher on the EU debt crisis at the European University Institute in Florence, told RT.
Spain’s economic output has shrunk for five quarters in a row and the country’s banking sector has been given a €100 billion loan by the 17 Eurozone states.