Madrid riot police have cleared Plaza de Neptune of protesters, with about 200 officers securing the surrounding blocks. At least 60 people have been injured and 26 arrested as police used batons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Local emergency services have confirmed that at least 60 people, including eight policemen, were injured in clashes between police and protesters, El Pais reports. One of the wounded is believed to be in critical condition, while one of the injured policemen suffered a severe concussion.
Riot police dispersed the protesters, dragging some who had tried to get through police lines by their arms and legs. An uneasy order was restored and reinforcements were brought in to try and disperse the crowd.
Thirteen of those arrested have been detained after a group of protesters tried to break through the police barrier for the first time. Further arrests were carried out during the following clashes, bringing the total number of arrests to some 60, El Pais reported.
Authorities estimate that about 6,000 people took part in Tuesday’s protest. Over 1,300 riot police officers were deployed in the capital, which is more than a half the country's riot police force.
Victor Sampedro, associate professor at the Rey Juan Carlos University, told RT that heavy handed policing was largely to blame for the outbreak of violence: “What really went wrong was the way and the behavior of the government and how they conducted the situation. People gathered in those squares and when they tried to surround the parliament, they were blocked, there were there different rings and there was an overwhelming presence of police,” he said.
Protests organizers have decided to repeat the protest and block the Parliament once again on Wednesday.
Thousands of activists have congregated in Madrid’s Plaza de Neptune, 100 meters from the Congress building, to protest Spanish austerity measures.
The demonstrators pledged to march around the building, and called for new elections. Metal barriers have been placed around the building to block access from every possible direction.
Demonstrators waved banners with the slogan ‘No’ written on them, in reference to the austerity policies of the Spanish government.
Protesters said that today is a key day to level criticism against politicians and the Spanish government. The city stationed armored police vehicles bumper-to-bumper around the parliament building, and announced that around 1,300 police would be deployed to counter the protesters.
The organizers of the protest dubbed their movement ‘Surround Congress,’ and expressed hopes that thousands would turn out. The protestors called themselves ‘indignants’ and claimed that their democracy had been ‘kidnapped,’ calling for new elections and rallies against the austerity measures enacted by Mariano Rajoy’s government.
Some 200 demonstrators gathered near the city’s main railway station chanting “Rescue democracy,” and “This is not a crisis, it’s a swindle.”
Carmen Rivero – a 40-year old photographer who travelled overnight by bus from the southern city of Granada – said, “We think this is an illegal government. We want the parliament to be dissolved, a referendum and a constituent assembly so that the people can have a say in everything.”
Another 100 protesters were scattered across the city’s main square, the Plaza de Espana.
“This is not a real democracy. This is a democracy kidnapped by the parties in collaboration with the economic powers and the people have no say in it,” said Romula Barnares, a 40-year-old artist wearing sunglasses with a dollar sign on one lens and a euro sign on another.
Austerity has hit every Spanish family and caused people who had been core supporters of the public sphere out of the country, says Carlos Delclos, a sociologist at Pompeu Fabra University.
“Austerity right now is at the level where it’s affecting people’s daily lives. It is affecting whether or not people can get medical attention, whether or not people can advance socially through education and social progress,” Delclos told RT. “What you are seeing is a country where an entire generation is being relegated to a class of emigrants. People who have been investing into public money are now going to move out and generate wealth in other countries. That’s not a project for our country.”
But Miguel-anxo Murado, a journalist and writer, told RT that he thought their demands are too vague and that they would not be successful, “it seems that they are back with the same very vague and ambitious platform and in-fact they have been over shadowed by a different constitutional challenge, which is for the independence movement in Catalonia, which is more likely to change the constitution, although in a different way, so I’m afraid they will probably not have a huge success today.”
Spain is in the middle of its second recession in two years, and faces a 25 percent unemployment rate.
Madrid introduced the controversial austerity measures in a gesture meant to show that it intends to fix its debt and budgetary shortfalls. The European Central Bank granted Spain a 100 billion euro rescue loan for its banks, but the country has not decided whether to seek another bailout.
Europe’s financial leaders are pleading for Spain to reduce volatility in its markets by deciding whether or not to request the second loan.
During a September 15 protest, waves of some 50,000 anti-austerity demonstrators converged in downtown Madrid, blowing whistles and hoisting banners that read, “They are destroying the country, we must stop them.” Representatives from over 230 civic and professional organizations also turned out amid cries of “lies,” and “enough.”