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Spanish rallies turn violent as million people protest in 80 cities (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Published time: July 19, 2012 22:23
Edited time: July 21, 2012 13:27

Spain, Madrid: Waste containers burn after a demonstration against the Spanish government's latest austerity measures in downtown Madrid on July 19, 2012 (AFP Photo / Dominique Faget)

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At least 15 people have been arrested and around 40 injured in central Madrid after police used force to disperse hundreds of thousands of angry protesters that flooded the streets in outrage against the country’s latest austerity package.

­Over a million public employees, trade union members and fed-up citizens have taken to the streets in over 80 Spanish cities.

Violence erupted in Madrid around midnight after dozens of protesters reached the city’s Puerta del Sol square and clashed with riot police. Security forces used batons, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd as it tried to enter the congress building located on the square. Some of the protesters lobbed bottles at officers. At least 10 policemen were injured during the clashes in the capital.

In some urban areas, activists set trash cans on fire and tried to block police vehicle access with barricades of plastic bins and cardboard boxes.

Demonstrators carried flags and banners decorated with scissors, symbolizing the country's harsh spending cuts. The streets of Madrid were paralyzed by the boundless crowds of people bellowing “Hands up, this is a robbery!” An estimated 100,000 people participated in the demonstrations in the capital.

In Barcelona, similar scenes were reported. About a dozen protesters were arrested outside the local parliament building.

Eight firemen stripped naked in the northern town of Mieres near Oviedo. "With so many cuts we have been left naked," declared a banner on the wall above them.

The demonstrations were organized by unions who have been outraged by the government’s new measures. One such measure is an end to Christmas bonuses for civil servants, which amounts to a 3.5 to 7 per cent reduction in annual pay.

"There's nothing we can do but take to the street. We have lost between 10 and 15 per cent of our pay in the past four years," demonstrator Sara Alvera, 51, a worker in the justice sector, told AFP.

"We are two and a half million votes. I hope they are thinking about that," said Jose Luis Martinez, 52, who works at the interior ministry, told Reuters.

"We have to make some noise, because they're making fun of us and of all working people," said Iria, 34, an auditor in the treasury.

Earlier Thursday, Spanish Parliament approved a new package of spending cuts and tax hikes aiming to save $80 billion in a bid to take a bite out of the budget deficit. Since the measure was announced last week, Spain has witnessed a series of daily demonstrations, some of which have erupted into violence.

Europe's fourth-largest economy also has the EU's highest unemployment rate. About a quarter of working-age Spaniards are unable to find work.

Meanwhile, Germany’s lower house approved a $122 billion rescue package for Spanish banks in a bid to help the country cope with "excessive" market fears and prevent the eurozone's debt crisis from spreading further.

Spain, Madrid: Riot policemen remain on a street of Madrid during a protest against the Spanish government′s latest austerity measures, on July 19, 2012. (AFP Photo / Pedro Armestre)
Spain, Madrid: Riot policemen remain on a street of Madrid during a protest against the Spanish government's latest austerity measures, on July 19, 2012. (AFP Photo / Pedro Armestre)
Spain, Madrid: A man stands in front of riot policemen on a street of Madrid during a protest against the Spanish government′s latest austerity measures, on July 19, 2012. (AFP Photo / Pedro Armestre)
Spain, Madrid: A man stands in front of riot policemen on a street of Madrid during a protest against the Spanish government's latest austerity measures, on July 19, 2012. (AFP Photo / Pedro Armestre)
Spain, Madrid : A man holds a sign reading "Spaniards, Franco is back" on a street of Madrid during a protest against the Spanish government′s latest austerity measures, on July 19, 2012. (AFP Photo / Pedro Armestre)
Spain, Madrid : A man holds a sign reading "Spaniards, Franco is back" on a street of Madrid during a protest against the Spanish government's latest austerity measures, on July 19, 2012. (AFP Photo / Pedro Armestre)
Spain, Madrid : people demonstrate against the Spanish government′s latest austerity measures in the center of Madrid on July 19, 2012.(AFP Photo / Dominique Faget)
Spain, Madrid : people demonstrate against the Spanish government's latest austerity measures in the center of Madrid on July 19, 2012.(AFP Photo / Dominique Faget)
Firemen spray water over demonstrators during a protest against government austerity measures in Madrid. (REUTERS / Sergio Perez)
Firemen spray water over demonstrators during a protest against government austerity measures in Madrid. (REUTERS / Sergio Perez)
Protesters march during a demonstration against government austerity measures, in central Valencia
Protesters march during a demonstration against government austerity measures, in central Valencia
Demonstrators fill Madrid′s Puerta del Sol square during a protest against government austerity measures. (REUTERS / Sergio Perez)
Demonstrators fill Madrid's Puerta del Sol square during a protest against government austerity measures. (REUTERS / Sergio Perez)
Firefighters pose naked in front of a banner during a demonstration against government cuts inside their fire station in Mieres (REUTERS / Eloy Alonso)
Firefighters pose naked in front of a banner during a demonstration against government cuts inside their fire station in Mieres (REUTERS / Eloy Alonso)
A demonstrator dresses as an skeleton during a protest against government austerity measures in Madrid (REUTERS / Sergio Perez)
A demonstrator dresses as an skeleton during a protest against government austerity measures in Madrid (REUTERS / Sergio Perez)
Civil servants shout slogans during a protest against government austerity measures in Madrid (REUTERS / Sergio Perez)
Civil servants shout slogans during a protest against government austerity measures in Madrid (REUTERS / Sergio Perez)
Firemen participate in a protest against government austerity measures in Barcelona.(REUTERS / Albert Gea)
Firemen participate in a protest against government austerity measures in Barcelona.(REUTERS / Albert Gea)
SPAIN, Barcelona : A woman holds a banner rwhich translates as "culture is not a luxury" during a demonstration organized by Unions on July 19, 2012 in Barcelona, against the government′s welfare cuts. In the latest measures to lower Spain′s deficit, conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced 65 billion euros′ ($80 billion) worth of savings measures. (AFP Photo / Josep Largo)
SPAIN, Barcelona : A woman holds a banner rwhich translates as "culture is not a luxury" during a demonstration organized by Unions on July 19, 2012 in Barcelona, against the government's welfare cuts. In the latest measures to lower Spain's deficit, conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced 65 billion euros' ($80 billion) worth of savings measures. (AFP Photo / Josep Largo)
Spain, Madrid : Thousands of people protest against the Spanish government′s latest austerity measures, in Madrid, on July 19, 2012. AFP Photo / Pedro Armestre)
Spain, Madrid : Thousands of people protest against the Spanish government's latest austerity measures, in Madrid, on July 19, 2012. AFP Photo / Pedro Armestre)
Spain, Barcelona : A man protests during a demonstration organized by Unions on July 19, 2012 in Barcelona, against the government′s welfare cuts. (AFP Photo / Josep Lago)
Spain, Barcelona : A man protests during a demonstration organized by Unions on July 19, 2012 in Barcelona, against the government's welfare cuts. (AFP Photo / Josep Lago)
Spain, Madrid : Spanish actors Javier Bardem his brother Carlos Bardem and their mother Pilar Bardem demonstrate against the Spanish government′s latest austerity measures in Madrid on July 19, 2012. (AFP Photo/ Dominiwue Faget)
Spain, Madrid : Spanish actors Javier Bardem his brother Carlos Bardem and their mother Pilar Bardem demonstrate against the Spanish government's latest austerity measures in Madrid on July 19, 2012. (AFP Photo/ Dominiwue Faget)
Spain, Seville: A woman protests against the Spanish government′s latest austerity measures, in Seville, on July 19, 2012. (AFP Photo / Cristina Quicler)
Spain, Seville: A woman protests against the Spanish government's latest austerity measures, in Seville, on July 19, 2012. (AFP Photo / Cristina Quicler)

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