Thousands of Spanish “indignant” protesters rallied against austerity cuts Friday night before some of them clashed with police, who charged demonstrators with batons.
Surrounded by 20 police vans, they stood outside the headquarters of the Popular Party (PP) of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and shouted “resign, resign!” and “they are lining their pockets!”
Carrying signs that read “They call it democracy, and it isn’t”, they then headed for the headquarters of the opposition Socialist Party, which they also accuse of incompetence in the face of the crisis.
However, they were pushed back by riot police before the demonstrators moved on in the direction of parliament. At least five people were arrested, AFP journalists reported.
This week Rajoy — obliged by Brussels to order new cuts and tax increases to meet deficit-cutting commitments — revealed a new 65-billion-euro ($80-billion) austerity package.
It includes a sales tax rise, lower jobless benefits and public sector pay cuts, measures expected to add to the pain amid a 24.4-percent unemployment rate that among the youth stands at 52 percent.
Earlier Friday, King Juan Carlos made a rare political comment, calling on the government not to forget Spain’s unemployed as it decides on austerity measures to battle debt.
In July Spain is to become the fourth eurozone country, after Greece, Ireland and Portugal, to get bailout funds when it receives the first tranche of a 100 billion euro ($122 billion) kitty for its banking sector.
Spain’s “indignant” protest movement was born in early 2011 in a sprawling encampment at Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square. It inspired similar protests, from Britain to the United States’ Occupy Wall Street.