ROYAL PROTEST

Demonstrators brave heavy rain to demand an end to the monarchy

Police prevent around 1,500 protestors from setting up camp at Oriente Palace

Police riot vans line the access road to the royal palace in Madrid Saturday. / Víctor Lerena (EFE)

About 1,500 demonstrators turned up on Saturday for an anti-monarchy march that was prevented by police — and the heavy rains — from accomplishing its goal of setting up a camp outside the Oriente Royal Palace.

Dubbed "Checkmate on the king," the demonstration was organized by the 25S protest movement. Police blocked off a wide perimeter outside the palace in downtown Madrid to prevent the marchers from gaining access to the royal residence.

The march ended close to the nearby Royal Theater where organizers read a statement calling for a constituent assembly that would lead to the abolishment of the monarchy, which they called "illegitimate and corrupt."

In the end, the organizers asked everyone to go home but several dozen youths remained under the vigilance of a detachment of the estimated 100 police officers called out to blockade the palace.

"To the sharks with the Bourbons!" they shouted in reference to King Juan Carlos's dynasty.

Organizers said they filed a complaint with the Madrid courts over what they said was a disproportionate number of officers called out by the government's delegate in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, who was at her office monitoring the event even though she is officially on sick leave recovering from a serious motorcycle accident in August.

The Bourbons were twice thrown out of this country; this could be their last time"

Protest leaders claimed that police stopped about 60 young people in Legazpi and prevented them from attending the event.

"In the past year, the monarchy has been at the center of a good part of the corruption scandals in this country. It is not irrational to call for the end of the monarchy. In the past, the Bourbons were twice thrown out of this country; this could be their last time," said Doris Benegas, a 61-year-old lawyer who is one of the leaders of the Castellana Left group.

Plagued by scandals, including the ongoing criminal inquiry into alleged embezzlement of public money by royal son-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin, the monarchy has seen its lowest approval ratings since democracy was restored.

King Juan Carlos's own popularity rating hit an all-time low in April 2012 when it emerged that he broke his hip during a expensive hunting trip to Botswana just months after he told Spaniards on Christmas Eve that the country's youth unemployment rate "kept him awake at night."

Last week, the king underwent further surgery to correct his hip replacement and he is currently convalescing at the Quirón University Hospital in Madrid.

The 25S movement takes its name from the day demonstrators tried to take Congress last year September 25. The attempt ended in violent altercations with police and a permanent presence by law enforcement officers around the congressional building. It grew from the same ideas that brought together the 15M movement, which also helped spawn similar protest drives across Europe to campaign against austerity, public and financial corruption and a lack of social services.

According to polls, seven out of 10 Spaniards sympathize with the 15M movement.

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