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PROTESTS IN MADRID

Thousands swell streets for third protest outside Congress

Demonstrators incensed by defense of police actions and prime minister's comments

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Protestors marching near Congress in Madrid on Sunday. EL PAÍS

Thousands of demonstrators poured into Neptune square Saturday night for the third protest in a week in front of Congress over the Popular Party (PP) government’s cutbacks and austerity measures.

Students, retired workers, unemployed people and professionals gathered in downtown Madrid to express their displeasure at Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s economic policies.

“What does the government believe, that we should not protest the decisions that it is taking?” asked one demonstrator.

Only one major clash was reported when a group of protestors began toppling trash bins and knocked down a barrier near the congress building when police began trying to clear the square at about 12.30am. Two people were arrested and 12 others, including an officer, were injured.

On Tuesday, the day of the so-called 25-S protest outside Congress, 36 people were arrested following violent confrontations between anti-riot police who used nightsticks to keep people from approaching the chamber building. A Madrid judge has charged them all with altercation, resisting arrest and crimes against government institutions.

This time around the protestors had fresh complaints to add to their growing list of grievances. They said they were outraged by the “police brutality” and excesses that occurred on Tuesday. They were also incensed by the government’s appraisals the following day, when the police actions were described as “extraordinary, splendid, brilliant and exemplary.”

Also arousing their furor was the news photograph of Rajoy walking along the streets of New York City, smoking a cigar, taken on the same day as Tuesday’s disturbances and published on the front pages of the major Spanish newspapers. The prime minister was in New York to attend the UN General Assembly. Later Rajoy added more fuel to the fire when he publicly made mention of “the majority of Spaniards who don’t protest”

“The immense majority are working, doing what they can to accomplish this national objective that involves all of us; that is to emerge from this crisis,” Rajoy said after Tuesday’s demonstration.

“I felt insulted; that is why I came here to give him my answer,” said Isabel Martínez, a 38-year-old lawyer. “Say what you want Rajoy but I am not going to keep my mouth shut.”

Juan Alcudia, a 74-year-old retiree, called Rajoy’s statements “a huge mistake.”

“You can’t offend people who are protesting peacefully,” he added.

In a related incident, police said they will file charges against a 49-year-old waiter who prevented an anti-riot squad from entering the restaurant where he works to arrest a group of protestors. Alberto Casillas, who was hailed as a hero by the protestors, said he briefly fainted on Saturday night when told by a group of officers that charges will be pressed.

 

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