Madrid protesters vow to return if evicted

31st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Protesters angry over Spain's economic woes vowed Tuesday to return if police move in to clear their encampment from a major square in the Spanish capital.

Activists said an informal police agreement not to eject them from Madrid's central square of Puerta del Sol had expired Tuesday. It was unclear, however, if or when police would act.

"If they evict us we will come back and they must see that so far the only thing the evictions have achieved is to act like an appeal and for more people to come," said a protest spokesman.

Madrid protesters, who decry political corruption, welfare cuts and unemployment, promised to react with passive resistance in the face of a police intervention.

Spain's protests began May 15 and fanned out to city squares nationwide as word spread by Twitter and Facebook among demonstrators known variously as "the indignant", "M-15" and "Spanish Revolution".

Their nightly rallies peaked with tens of thousands protesting on the eve of Spain's May 22 local elections, in which the ruling Socialists were crushed by the conservative Popular Party amid an economic crisis.

Although their numbers are down from the peak, Madrid protesters agreed Sunday to stay indefinitely in Puerta del Sol square, saying they were at the vanguard of a movement gaining support in Europe.

But Spain's government has said it received demands from the Madrid regional authorities and local businesses to clear the encampment whose blue plastic tents stretch across the square.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said this week that both he and the police would act "with prudence."

In Barcelona, anti-riot police fired rubber bullets and swung truncheons Friday to disperse protesters in the city's Plaza de Cataluna ahead of celebrations of Barcelona's Champions League victory.

By that same evening, however, at least 5,000 people were back in the square and some had put up tents.

Madrid protesters said they would end their encampment only when they had consolidated the movement.

Activists said they had held smaller assemblies in 120 Madrid neighbourhoods and communes at the weekend, drawing anything from 10 to 800 protesters. Other cities in Spain adopted the same strategy.

On Sunday similar rallies surfaced in other countries. Some 20,000 people assembled in Athens' central Syntagma Square and another 1,000 gathered in Paris.

Spain's unemployment rate shot to 21.19 percent in the first quarter of this year, the highest in the OECD club of industrialised nations. For under-25s, the rate in February was 44.6 percent.

© 2011 AFP

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