Puerta del Sol square in the center of Madrid on Thursday evening. (Reuters)
Tens of thousands of people filled the streets in 80 Spanish cities on Thursday evening to demonstrate against the government’s new round of austerity measures, approved by the parliament only hours earlier.
After a week of spontaneous street protest mainly by public sector employees, the demonstration on Thursday, which was called by several trade unions, brought participants from a wide spectrum, including union members, judges, police and firemen, members of the armed forces, unemployed, retired people, as well as hundreds of associations representing teachers, students and other social interest groups.
Under the slogan “They want to ruin the country, we have to stop it, there are more of us,” the protest was directed against the government's latest budget measures aimed at reducing deficit and tackling the economic crisis.
The new measures include, for instance, the major increase of value-added taxes in decades, reduced unemployment benefits –Spain has the highest unemployment rate in Europe at about 25 percent– and the withdrawal of benefits for public sector employees.
Pacific protest march
The demonstration in Madrid brought the highest number of people among the 80 protests in different cities around the country; about 40,000 protested in the capital according to the authorities, while the organizers estimated 800,000.
The protest march occurred without incidents and in a festive atmosphere from the Neptuno Square to the Puerta del Sol in the center of Madrid.
During the night after the protest, however, there were confrontations between the police and groups of protesters in the center of Madrid, and 15 people were detained.
This article was translated and edited by Stina Lunden.
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