STREET PROTESTS

Protestors warned against “illegal” assault on parliament

Interior minister talks tough as police prepare to keep “surround Congress” demonstrators at bay

An image from the second day of protests outside Congress on September 26. / SANTI BURGOS

Thousands of demonstrators are expected to converge around Congress later Tuesday in a massive protest against the Popular Party (PP) administration’s budget cuts, and to repeat their calls to hold a referendum over the government’s austerity measures.

The demonstration is being organized by the so-called 25-S movement, which held a similar “surround Congress” convergence on September 25, resulting in violent confrontations between riot police and protesters leaving 64 injured and 34 arrests.

Congress Speaker Jesús Posada called Tuesday’s planned demonstration “illegal” because organizers did not inform the Madrid government delegate, Cristina Cifuentes, beforehand about the planned mobilization of protestors.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said early Tuesday morning that the PP government will not tolerate any type of incursions or attempts to take over the parliament building, which some organizers of the demonstrations have stated to be their ultimate goal. The Constitution guarantees that Congress is "impenetrable" he told reporters, adding that authorities will not tolerate any attempts to block the building from outside.

Some 1,500 riot police are expected to be on hand to keep the demonstrators from approaching Congress. On Monday, Cifuentes warned that the police will react “as always” to ensure “security and public order, which is their duty.”

We will surround Congress as many times as needed until democracy returns"

Organizers have issued a called for people to begin converging on Claudio Moyano street and nearby Neptune square starting at around 5.30pm local time. There will be discussions and debates in two separate assemblies over the Rajoy government’s budget cuts and the push to pressure Congress to approve a referendum over the austerity measures.

At around 9pm, they will try to surround Congress and remain there until lawmakers emerge from Tuesday’s session. Other mass protest gatherings are scheduled for Thursday and Saturday.

“We will continue our actions and surround Congress as many times as needed until democracy is returned to us,” the 25-S organizers said in a statement.

On September 25, riot police used nightsticks and shields to keep people from rushing the Congress building, turning the demonstration into a violent mêlée.

A Madrid judge who was considering charges filed against the 34 arrested that day decided on Tuesday that she would recuse herself from the case and send it to the High Court where they can face more serious penalties if they are convicted. The police had originally tried to press charges before the High Court, but Judge Santiago Pedraz immediately decided he had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

But in a ruling, the Madrid judge said that the charges fell within the High Court’s legal bounds because the protest, which was held while Congress was sitting, was aimed at a “rupture of the current system of government.”

Also on Tuesday, about 300 protestors marched in the center of Madrid against the regional government’s planned cuts in public education. Holding placards reading “Stop the social cuts – mobilize for your rights!” and “The PP is a destroyer of education,” the marchers walked peacefully from the capital’s Puerta del Sol square to the education commissioner’s offices on Alcalá street.

The nation’s largest unions, the CCOO and UGT, have called for a general strike on November 14.

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