Tens of thousands of protesters from across Spain gathered in Madrid to decry austerity measures enacted by the government. Activists accused leaders of “destroying” Spain with brutal program cuts and tax hikes, aimed at avoiding an EU bailout.
Some 50,000 protesters converged in waves in the center of the Spanish capital, blowing whistles and waving banners that read, “they are destroying the country, we must stop them.” Representatives from over 230 civic and professional organizations also turned out to express anger at the new measures, amid cries of “lies!” and “enough!”
Demonstrators called for a referendum to decide whether the unpopular public sector cuts instated by Mariano Rajoy’s government should continue.
The Spanish government’s austerity measures will cut an estimated 102 billion euros ($126.5 billion) from the budget, and are to be introduced before 2014 with the aim of reducing the country’s deficit and avoiding an EU bailout.
Police arrested four people at the outset of the rally for refusing to present identification. They were taken into custody on charges of ‘resisting the authorities.’
Nearly 1,000 buses ferried austerity-weary civil servants from the surrounding provinces into downtown Madrid.
Activists divided themselves into six ‘human waves’ and wore different colored shirts corresponding with the organization represented.
Those in red represented the syndicates, green for education, purple for women rights groups, orange for social services, white for healthcare and black for public services.
“The rally represents a protest from all of our society against this unprecedented social fracture,” a spokesperson from the Social Summit, the organizing body of the protests said, adding that the “ideological regression of the conservatives bore worrying symptoms of political authoritarianism.”
Spain’s ruling conservative party the PP (People’s Party) has sparked a recent wave of public anger over unpopular cuts to the country’s public sector services. The PP’s latest move was to revoke public workers’ Christmas bonuses, effectively cutting their yearly wages by seven percent.
“The pressure on our citizens is becoming more and more unbearable, they are reducing our incomes even more thanks to the new labor reform and the removal of overtime pay,” a spokesperson from the Social Platform for the Defense of State Welfare said.