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"The government wants to deny reality, and that is why we are here," said Javier Garcia, a spokesperson for the March for Dignity. (Photo: AP)

'Food, Dignity, and a Roof': Thousands March Against Austerity in Spanish Capital

Protesters are mobilizing for a general strike ahead of national elections

Sarah Lazare

A "March for Dignity" drew thousands to the Spanish capital on Saturday in the latest show of mass opposition to the government's harsh austerity policies that have slashed public goods—from education to public health to unemployment assistance.

As they marched through Madrid, protesters carried banners that read, "Food, jobs and a roof with dignity. Walking toward the general strike."

"We have mobilized here for the young people because in Extremadura youth unemployment is almost 60 percent," 28-year-old Antonio Laso, from southwestern Spain, told the Guardian.

"The government wants to deny reality, and that is why we are here," Javier Garcia, a spokesperson for the March for Dignity, told VICE News.

He said protesters are fighting for "the recovery of some public services related to education and health, to protest against the payment of the debt, which we consider unfair and illegal as it has not been contracted by the people's decision, and to position us against the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), a free commerce treaty between both economic areas that is going to bring more poverty to our country."

The rally, which follows a last year's March for Dignity, is part of escalating mobilizations aimed at building towards a general strike in October—ahead of the national elections.

The demonstration came one day before Andalusia's regional election on Sunday—which many say will be a test of popular support for the left-wing, anti-austerity Podemos party in the lead-up to the general election.

This region is stricken by poverty and joblessness, with more than a third of all people unemployed—a rate higher than the national average of 25 percent.

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