Riot police clear "indignant protesters" in Barcelona
More than 100 Spanish riot police Thursday evicted scores of "indignant" protesters who had refused to abandon a six-week encampment in a major Barcelona square.
Catalan police surrounded the activists in the early hours of the morning with a double cordon of officers, backed by dozens of police vans, in the northeastern Spanish city's Plaza de Catalunya square.
Police in full anti-riot gear warned the 40 or so activists by loudspeaker that they had 15 minutes to depart and then they moved in, taking the names of those remaining before allowing them to leave.
There were no apparent signs of violence.
Municipal cleaners then moved in to collapse the dozens of protest stands and tents, including platforms perched on trees.
"It was all very quick and calm. As far as we know there is no-one left in there. Those who were caught by surprise inside the square by the police operation were identified and then they let them go," said a protest spokesman, Roc Peris, standing outside the police cordon.
"We are calm. People who were inside are out now. It is impossible to go back becasue the square is strongly protected by the police," he said.
Activists had agreed to clear the tent camp on Wednesday in return for the city giving them an information booth to help tell people about the protest over Spain's economic crisis.
But they refused to go at the last minute, saying the city authorities had offered them a cabin measuring eight square metres (86 square feet), which Peris said was "not enough".
The Barcelona encampment was set up as part of a movement that erupted May 15 when activists rallied protesters to city squares around Spain, spreading the word via Twitter and Facebook.
The protesters have won broad public support in their fight against austerity measures, a 21.29-percent unemployment rate and corruption-tainted politicians.
On May 27, Catalan anti-riot police fired rubber bullets and swung truncheons to disperse protesters in the Barcelona square, resulting in 87 mostly light injuries.
By that same evening, however, at least 5,000 people were back in the square pitching tents again.
A protest camp in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square was dismantled on June 12 but the group has since mounted a series of protests, rallying an estimated 200,000 people across Spain on June 19.
Last week, small groups of activists set off on long marches from Barcelona, Valencia in the east and Cadiz in the south to spread their protest before joining up for a Madrid rally planned on July 24.
© 2011 AFP