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'Spanish Revolution' Sparks Wave of Protests in Europe

'Los indignados' say they'll keep up pressure

Spaniards protesting the handling of the country's economic crisis vowed to keep their tents in central city squares this week, as a wave of similar protests spread to other major European cities.

Protesters raise their hands during an assembly in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square, Tuesday May 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Pedro Acosta) Hundreds of people both young and old voted late Sunday to keep a two-week-old protest encampment in Madrid's main Puerta del Sol square going until Thursday at least, a move echoed in Spain's second-largest city, Barcelona.

Dubbed "los indignados" (the indignant), tens of thousands of demonstrators packed squares across Spain in a wave of outrage over high unemployment and government austerity measures in the runup to local and regional elections on May 22.

The elections dealt a crushing defeat to Spain's ruling Socialists, who have had to balance voter anger over national belt tightening and investor demands for strict measures to keep the public deficit in check.

The "Spanish Revolution," has inspired similar demonstrations across Europe.

In Greece, protests have drawn about 24,000 people to Athens' central Syntagma square, and about 1,500 in the Northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, according to usually conservative police estimates.

On Monday about 30 tents were laid out in Athens' central square, as part of a daily gathering that kicked off last Wednesday and which is seen less politically motivated than traditional protest rallies called on by labour unions.

"Finally, it was time we woke up from the lethargy. We feel the need to step forward, to state our disappointment, our disgust, our anger and end any kind of tolerance against all those who bear the responsibility," a movement called "The Indignant Citizens" wrote on a blog.

In Paris, riot police cleared out the Place de la Bastille on Sunday evening after hundreds of protesters gathered on the steps of a popular opera house there.

Protesters estimated the turnout at over 1,000 and cited several arrests as well as some injured. Police said around 500 people had shown up.

"We started these spontaneous gatherings around 10 days ago and they are growing," said one protester, who asked not to be named. "At first we were just a few and now hundreds are showing up every day, with big spikes on the weekend.

A pan-European "major day of protest" was set for June 19, the protester said, adding that his group - the French chapter of the Spanish "Acampada" movement - had yet to formulate any precise demands.
 

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