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Spanish Anger at Austerity Spills Into the Streets

- Common Dreams staff

Tens of thousands of Spaniards fed up with the economic misery caused by austerity measures and waving banners against bankers marched this weekend to mark the first anniversary of the grassroots "Indignados" movement that has sparked similar protests around the world.

Riot policemen surround demonstrators during a protest marking the one year anniversary of Spain's Indignados (Indignant) movement in Madrid's Puerta del Sol, early May 13, 2012. Dubbed "los indignados" (the indignant), the movement which spawned similar protests worldwide, has called for 96 hours of continuous protest to culminate at the Puerta del Sol square where the movement was founded a year ago in a renewed protest over government austerity measures, banks, politicians, economic recession, and the highest unemployment in the eurozone. Spain's police removed protesters early on Sunday. REUTERS/Jose Luis Cuesta Police arrested 18 people in Madrid's Puerta del Sol overnight for resisting an order to leave. Protesters rallied anew in the square during the day calling for the release of the 18, chanting: "We're not all here!"

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Spaniards took to the streets in 80 cities across the country, waving banners and chanting against the bankers and politicians they blame for Spain's worst crisis in decades.

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The Independent/UK reports:

Spaniards angered by increasingly grim economic prospects and unemployment hitting one out of every four citizens turned out in droves in the nation's largest cities.

Austerity cuts targeting “health and education, but rescuing banks are wrong. They need to find other places to cut”.The protest marked the one-year anniversary of a spontaneous movement that inspired similar anti-authority demonstrations across the world.

The Interior Ministry said 72,000 people marched against the government's tough austerity measures in Madrid, Barcelona and six other cities, but protesters claimed the turnout was much higher.

The epicenter of the protest was Madrid, where at least 30,000 people flooded into the central Puerta del Sol plaza last night, vowing to stay put for three days.

Authorities warned they would not allow anyone to camp out overnight as protesters did last year, but the demonstrators stayed put after a midnight deadline to leave and more than 2,000 riot police on duty made no immediate effort to force them out.

“I'm here to defend the rights that we're losing and for the young people who have it so tough,” said 57-year-old teacher Roberto Alonso. “They're better educated than ever. But they don't have work. They don't have anything. They're behind and they'll stay that way.”

At least 22,000 people demonstrated in Barcelona, Spain's second largest city. Marches were also held in Bilbao, Malaga and Seville, and sympathizers from other countries held protests across Europe.

The protests began May 15 last year and drew hundreds of thousands of people calling themselves the Indignant Movement. The demonstrations spread across Spain and Europe as anti-austerity sentiment grew.

“We've had this crisis for four years, but it feels like it's just starting,” the fine arts major said.

Mr Colilla, who lives with his parents, said he saw no prospect of getting a menial job after graduation and thinks he may never be able to buy a flat.

“Right now I'm thinking my best option will be to go to Germany where I can wash dishes, make a little money and learn German,” he said. “The prospects of getting a job in Spain are practically nonexistent.”

He said the government austerity cuts targeting “health and education, but rescuing banks are wrong. They need to find other places to cut”.

A year ago, the “indignados” pitched tents and occupied town and city squares across Spain for weeks. Demonstrators clashed with police who eventually moved in to evict them.

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A man looks out from a balcony as protesters pack the Puerta del Sol plaza in central Madrid Saturday May 12, 2012. The protesters returned to Sol to mark the anniversary of the protest movement that inspired groups in other countries. The protests began May 15 last year and drew hundreds and thousands of people calling themselves the indignant movement. The demonstrations spread across Spain and Europe as anti-austerity sentiment grew. (AP Photo/Paul White)

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