Tens of thousands protest against cuts in Madrid

June 19, 2011

Tens of thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Madrid Sunday blaming bankers and politicians for causing a financial crisis that forced the country to adopt painful spending cuts.

Demonstrators of all ages linked to a protest movement called the “indignants” assembled early Sunday in several neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Madrid.

They then formed six columns and converged on the city centre, gathering near Spain’s parliament where they met various forms of police resistance, including 12 vans blocking several major roads.

Protests over the economic crisis and soaring unemployment began in Madrid on May 15 and fanned out nationwide as word spread by Twitter and Facebook among demonstrators.

On Sunday, protesters insisted that workers and the unemployed would not passively accept spending cuts to help ease a crisis they had no role in causing.

“The banks and the governments that caused this situation must know that we do not agree with the measures and the budget cuts, that we intend to be heard”, the “indignants” movement said in its call for nationwide protests.

The El-Mundo newspaper, quoting police sources, estimated the number of demonstrators on Sunday at between 35,000 and 40,000.

In a procession on the main Castellana avenue that crosses Madrid from north to south, at least 3,000 people marched towards parliament, including the young, the retired, the unemployed and parents pushing babies in their strollers.

“They call this democracy, but it’s not,” shouted the crowd gathered at parliament, watched closely by police.

“We are not property in the hands of politicians and bankers,” read a banner written in bold red letters.

Yolanda Garcia, a 36-year-old woman who said she works a series of low-paying jobs and struggles to pay her bills, insisted that politicians “do nothing” to help people like her.

“I think that the (protest) movement could change things if it continues,” she said,” adding that the demonstrators have the support of Spain’s most disadvantaged.

Similar demonstrators were also expected in Barcelona and Valencia by the end of the day.

Protests in city squares across Spain against welfare cuts, corruption and a jobless rate of 21 percent in the first quarter of 2011 — the highest in the industrialised world — have run across the country for weeks.

The demonstrations peaked ahead of May 22 local election, when tens of thousands of people packed into squares in several towns and cities.

The protesters had also set a camp n Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square, which was dismantled on June 12 although the group said that did not signal the end of their movement.

The “indignants” have inspired similar offshoot movements in other European cities, notably Greece, where the government is also trying to implement a strict austerity programme to avoid defaulting on its loans.

The Spanish central bank said last weak the recovery in Spain’s beleaguered economy would likely remain slow, with unemployment expected to remain high for the foreseable future.

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