Spain's 'indignant' protest marches converge on Madrid
Seven cross-country protest marches by Spain's "indignant" activists are set to converge Saturday in central Madrid on the eve of a demonstration through the streets of the Spanish capital.
Protesters carrying sleeping bags and groundsheets set off from cities across the country at the end of June, including Barcelona, Malaga and Valencia, to applause from sympathisers.
They have stopped in towns and villages along the way, holding meetings at each stop at towns and villages along the way to spread their message of outrage at unemployment, welfare cuts and corruption.
One of the longest marches left the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela for Madrid, a distance of over 600 kilometres on June 24. It has picked up people along the way and now counts about 130 participants.
"We have been very well received. People see we are telling the truth," said 22-year-old journalism student Santi, who has marched from Santiago de Compostela, by telephone from Guadarrama, a town near Madrid.
Just over 500 people are taking part in the seven marches although more are expected to join them in the final days.
They will gather on Saturday night in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square where they will be joined by supporters who will travel to the Spanish capital by bus from over 30 cities.
On Sunday the protesters will march through the streets of Madrid, with the demonstration ending in Puerta del Sol.
The "indignant" movement emerged after protesters set up camp in the square in May to protest over the weak economy.
It quickly fanned out nationwide as word spread by Twitter and Facebook, bringing tens of thousands of people into city squares around Spain ahead of May 22 local elections.
"We are not going to let up until there is a complete change in how society is structured," said Felix, a 44-year-old spokesman for the movement, inside a wooden information booth set up by the "indignant" at Puerta del Sol.
"We are sick of a system where banks and multinationals are the owners of the world while the people are being beaten up.
Last month about 200,000 protesters packed the streets of Madrid, Barcelona and other major cities to vent their anger in demonstrations organised by the movement, which claims to have no leaders.
The "indignants" have inspired similar offshoot movements in other European countries, notably Greece, where the government is also trying to implement a strict austerity programme to avoid defaulting on its loans.
Polls show two-thirds of Spaniards sympathise with the "indignant" protesters.
Earlier this month Spain's Socialist government set new limits on the amount of money that banks can reclaim from mortgage defaulters in what was seen as an effort to appease the protesters.
© 2011 AFP