Tens of thousands of students marched out of their schools across Spain today, protesting broad education cuts that have caused teacher layoffs, overcrowded campuses and unheated classrooms. Tensions were highest in Barcelona, where police and protesters clashed as more than 30,000 people took to the streets.
Agence France-Presse reports:
Protestors marched through the streets in various towns after some camped the night in universities in a movement dubbed Primaveraestudiantil ("Student Spring") and Tomalafacultad ("Seize the faculty") on Twitter.
The national students' union said marches were called in about 40 cities and towns across the country to protest the austerity measures they say are disrupting classes and cutting teaching jobs.
"We did not create this crisis but we are paying for it in every sense," said the union's leader Tohil Delgado ahead of Wednesday's marches, saying classes and thousands of teaching jobs have been cut.
"They are making cuts in public education, they are giving us no option to work, and on top of this, when we protest democratically, they beat us with complete impunity."
He estimated turnout at the Valencia demonstration alone was in the tens of thousands.
In Madrid students whistled and chanted slogans such as "Fewer cuts, more education!"
They rallied noisily outside the national education ministry and stopped on their march to whistle angrily outside offices of Santander, a major bank.
They were the latest in a string of demonstrations in various sectors in anger at cuts and reforms that the conservative government says will strengthen the economy and eventually curb unemployment, which is near 23 percent.
"All the cutbacks and the labour reforms make it hard for youths to enter the labour market," Diego Parejo, 21, a third-year politics student, at the Madrid demonstration, told AFP.
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"When I finish university, I see a very dark future."
And The Guardian reported on events in Barcelona:
Fires were lit in the streets, cars burned and bank windows were smashed with missiles as the protests turned violent. At least one bank was broken into and police fired rubber bullets as roads in the city were blocked.
Baton-wielding riot police made several charges, pushing hundreds of demonstrators back into the main buildings of the University of Barcelona, not far from the central Plaça de Catalunya.
A small group of peaceful demonstrators marched on the Mobile World Congress – a major international telecoms trade fair – being held at the city's exhibition centre, blocking a nearby main road.
Masked protesters also attacked a television cameraman as authorities suggested the student protests had been infiltrated by troublemakers. "This gives an image of students and the university world that is simply not real," said Antoni Castellà, the director of universities for the Catalan regional government.
Early reports were of a handful of arrests and nine injuries.
"We did not expect this degree of repression," said Pau Brosons, a student, after police hit protesters with truncheons. "Nobody broke anything until they charged."
Students were due to assemble again on Wednesday night to decide whether to continue their protests.
A report in the Los Angeles Times warned that today's protest might only be an "omen of what's to come," and continued, "Spaniards are only beginning to feel the effects of a $20-billion package of spending cuts and tax hikes passed this year by the newly installed conservative government. Further spending cuts may follow because Madrid is still flouting rules limiting budget deficits for members of the 17-nation Eurozone."