Spain's 'indignant' rally against Madrid eviction

3rd August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spanish riot police Tuesday blocked more than 1,000 "indignant" protesters trying to gain access to a major Madrid square after having been evicted in a dawn raid.

Hundreds of protesters crammed into the sidestreets leading to the central square of Puerta del Sol, birthplace of a nationwide protest against the suffering caused by Spain's economic blight.

Lines of riot police crossed their arms and stood in front of the demonstrators, who gathered in swelling numbers in response to Facebook and Twitter pleas for a mass response to the earlier eviction.

Behind the officers, blue police vans impeded access.

Some protesters let red, green and white balloons with hearts drawn on them loose above the heads of the police and into the deserted square, chanting, "This is our square."

Other chanted: "Shame, shame!", "Are you police or hired assassins?", "Fewer police, more democracy!" and "The people united will never be defeated!"

A few invited the police to defect: "Join us, you have a mortgage too."

A 31-year-old woman was treaty for an anxiety attack by an ambulance crew after she scuffled with police after trying to push her way into the square, which was packed with blue police vans.

"The people have the right to be in the square, this is only going to reactivate the movement," said 27-year-old Antonio Tejero, who came to the protest with two friends after leaving his job at a nearby cafe.

The square's underground railway station was closed ahead of the police action.

People quickly deserted the square as police enforced the blockade and put up blue barriers nad marched through Madrid's main high street, the Gran Via, to parliament.

Spanish police had cleared dozens of protesters camped at an "info point" at the square and along the central Paseo del Prado avenue in a dawn operation that resulted in no injuries or arrests.

A police spokeswoman said the operation began at around 6:00 am (0400GMT) in Puerta del Sol and along the Paseo del Prado, and both sites were cleared of all traces of the encampments three hours later.

The "indignant" movement, also known as the 15-M after the May 15 launch date, emerged after thousands of protesters set up camp in the Puerta del Sol ahead of municipal elections to protest what they see as governments bowing to financial markets and irgnoring the needs of ordinary people.

The vast ramshackle protest 'village' 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.

The protesters have won broad public support in their fight against austerity measures, soaring unemployment and corruption-tainted politicians.

Some of the protesters said they believed the police operation was linked to the visit of Pope Benedict XVI for the World Youth Day festival in Madrid August 16-21.

"The only reason is that the pope is coming, they want to clean up everything," said Miguel Angel Valencia, 39. "This government has done nothing for the people since the beginnning."

A statement from the protest organisers said about 20 police vans had entered to evacuate the square in the dawn operation, where "22-23 people had spent the night."

"The aim was to evacuate (the square) and leave no trace of the information point that has been serving all those interested in the movement since the 15-M camp was taken down," it said.

© 2011 AFP

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