Thousands of Spaniards have returned to Madrid’s Plaza de Neptune to protest the latest, highly contentious wave of austerity measures, following a violent police crackdown on Tuesday.
For the second day running, thousands of demonstrators led by the so-called indignados, or outraged, descended on the square – some 100 meters from Spain’s Congress building. Many in the crowd chanted “government, resign!”while hoisting up placards bearing the slogan “No” in opposition to the country’s austerity program.
There was a tense standoff between demonstrators and police, who have formed a security cordon around the square. Police eventually yielded, as the protesters poured onto the square amidst jubilant cheers.
Pamphlets have been circulating through the crowd imploring those present not to repeat Tuesdays’s mistakes. The tract implores those present not to provoke the police, giving them a pretext to cripple the event, and has recommended a sit in protest.
Minor scuffles have periodically broken out between protesters, though in each case they quickly were resolved without police intervention.
The demonstrators are calling for new elections, saying the proposal of deeper budget cuts proves the ruling Popular Party has lost its legitimacy by failing to keep its promises.
The Bank of Spain said Wednesday that the country, where one in four faces unemployment, is in the grips of a deep depression.
Evictions have also skyrocketed across Spain as thousands have failed to repay bank loans. Many protesters were particularly enraged that the government was making cuts to health, education and public sector salaries while pumping funds into the country’s ailing banking sector to keep it afloat.
Clashes erupted Tuesday between protesters and police, who used batons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
The violent protest led to 38 arrests and 64 injuries, including eight police officers. The growing tensions come as the government is preparing a new round of austerity measures in its draft budget for 2013 on Thursday.
Protesters sit down as Spanish National Police officers in riot gear stand guard behind a fence closing the street outside Madrid’s Parliament during a demonstration September 26, 2012.
Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration outside Madrid’s Parliament, September 26, 2012.