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Police fire rubber bullets at Madrid protest

PTI Madrid | Updated on September 26, 2012 Published on September 26, 2012

Spanish riot police fired rubber bullets and baton-charged protesters as thousands rallied near Parliament in Madrid in anger at the economic crisis, in clashes that left more than 60 people injured.

Riot police in helmets yesterday had charged to clear thousands of protesters who swamped the Plaza de Neptuno square yelling “Shame!” and “Resign!”, addressing the Government.

Emergency services officials said more than 60 people had been hurt during the protests, including 27 police officers. Police said 26 people were arrested.

As police drove hundreds of protesters away down the surrounding avenues, many others sat on the ground on the square refusing to disperse.

Hours after the round of charges, hundreds remained peacefully on the square into the night, watched by a long line of riot police. It was unclear how long they would stay or whether police would charge again to clear them all.

Some protesters earlier tried to break down metal barriers protecting the Lower House of Parliament, the Congress of Deputies, prompting police to chase and beat them and haul several into vans.

The demonstration was organised by the “indignants”, a popular movement against a political system that they say deprives ordinary Spaniards of a voice in the crisis.

The economic crisis, blamed on the collapse of a speculation-driven real estate boom, has plunged Spain into recession, throwing millions out of work and many families into poverty. Unemployment is close to 25 per cent.

Protesters say the policies of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government, including pay cuts and sales tax rises to rein in the public deficit, hurt the poor unfairly.

The offering of a loan of up to $125 billion by Spain’s Euro Zone partners to rescue the country’s stricken banks has fanned their anger.

Yesterday’s demonstrators held their hands in the air and jeered: “Hands up, this is a robbery”, their regular refrain meaning that the poor are paying for the crisis while bankers get bailed out.

“They have robbed us of our democracy,” said 53-year-old shopkeeper Soledad Nunes from the northwestern region of Castile and Leon, demonstrating earlier in the day.

“We have lost our freedom, our welfare system with the cuts to health and education,” she complained. “I have two daughters and this year I had to pay a lot more for their studies.”

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Published on September 26, 2012
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