Eighty two people have been arrested and 38 injured, including 18 police officers, as Spanish police react swiftly to reports of property damage and disorderly behavior while mass protests that began in Spain continue to roll out across the EU.
A wave of anti-austerity anger is sweeping across Europe. Spain and Portugal are undergoing general strikes, whereas Greece and Italy are seeing many walkouts.
In Spain – the fourth-biggest eurozone economy, yet with one in four workers unemployed – activists and unions will also be staging an evening rally outside the parliament in the capital, Madrid.
The atmosphere remains tense in the capital following violent confrontations which resulted in dozens of arrests and injuries. Among those detained were a man and a woman from Madrid who were allegedly carrying material to build a bomb, including gasoline, nails, screws and a firecracker, El Mondo reports.
There were more sporadic clashes between riot police and protesters as thousands continue to gather on the central square of Puerta del Sol. Baton-yielding riot police police were seen chasing hostile protesters down a central thoroughfare near city hall, where many of the shops have been shuttered in anticipation of potential riots. Police also fired rubber bullets into the air to disperse demonstrators from key locations in the heart of the city.
After a tense face-off between protesters and a police cordon near the iconic Plaza de Cibeles Square, demonstrators have finally backed down for the time being.
Most of the anger has been concentrated on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose cuts in health, education and welfare benefits continue. Rajoy, who won a landslide election victory a year ago, is wrestling with the second-largest budget deficit in the euro region while trying to revive the economy from a five-year slump that pushed the jobless rate to 26 per cent. He is trying to avoid following Portugal, Greece and Ireland into seeking a sovereign bailout. Outrage is also growing over Spaniards losing their homes for failing to keep up with mortgage payments.
In Portugal, roughly 40 towns and cities are being called upon to protest. Strikes are being held to protest measures including wage and pension cuts. State-owned airline TAP SGPS SA has canceled flights. Lisbon’s Metro service was shut and state-owned train operator CP-Comboios de Portugal said most trains will not run.
Italian unions, too, are urging a four-hour work stoppage.
Transportation and shipping will be disrupted throughout the day due to staggered, four-hour walkouts. A nationwide strike will see Italy’s railway employees cease work, while maritime workers are also expected to delay departure times of ships and ferries by four hours. The biggest protest will be held in Rome and is expected to involve around 3,000 protestors.
Greece has called a three-hour walkout and a rally in Athens, as recent decisions by the government to further cuts spending in a bid to secure another tranche of bailout money have not gone down well. Greece has been at the crux of the eurozone crisis, with the country continuously tinkering with a possible default. This past week the government has been trying to further cut spending in order to secure another bailout.
It’s the first time the European Trade Union Confederation has appealed for a day of action that includes simultaneous strike action in four countries and further protests in other countries.
Other countries have also staged walkouts.
The synchronized and simultaneous strikes and protests have already grounded flights, forced schools to close and have shut down transport.