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Austerity anger spills into ‘Valencia Spring’ protests

Published time: February 26, 2012 10:35
Edited time: February 27, 2012 09:21

Protesters march during a demonstration against cuts on public services in central Valencia. (REUTERS/Heino Kalis)

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Thousands young Spaniards and teachers have once again packed the streets of Valencia and other Spanish cities on Saturday to protests against education cuts and labor reform.

­The demonstration, the latest in the stream of rallies, was dubbed “Valencia spring” after uprisings that swept across parts of North Africa and the Middle East.

According to the EU statistics office, Eurostat, Valencia already has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country.

During the last few days there have been fierce clashes between the police and young people on the streets of Spain, especially in the coastal city of Valencia.

The demonstrators accused police of heavy-handed tactics at previous rallies, where protestors were charged down and beaten.

The violence first erupted when police forcibly evicted students protesting against cuts in education budgets on Monday.

Police beat protesters with batons and literally dragged them off the streets. Dozens have been wounded by rubber bullets.

More than 40 people have been arrested since Monday, some of them minors.

Amnesty International and Save the Children organizations requested Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government to investigate possible police abuse, especially in the case of minors.

Protesters insist that the reforms agreed upon by the government in January exploit workers and could destroy jobs by making it easier to adjust employees' schedules and wages, and have staff fired.

Arguing to the contrary, government officials claim the labor reforms will reduce unemployment and give workers more rights, like, for example, a paid annual 20-hour training leave.