Madrid police disperse anti-pope protesters

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Baton-wielding Spanish anti-riot police late Thursday dispersed about 150 protesters, angry over the visit by Pope Benedict XVI and, who had gathered in a central Madrid square.

Police had earlier blocked off the Puerta del Sol square and used vans to hem in the demonstrators, furious over the cost of hosting the 84-year-old pontiff, who arrived in Madrid earlier Thursday for a Catholic youth festival.

"They (the police) hit me five or six times. We came unarmed, we did nothing, we were here for a public demonstration," said Bruno, 30, who had blood on his elbow.

"Thank goodness I covered my head or I would have hit in the head," he told an AFP reporter.

Ines Monroy Perez, 58, a museum employee said "they (the police) pushed me and I hid. People were running and they were being hit."

A spokesman for the Madrid emergency services said they had not attended to any injured.

The Puerta del Sol, birthplace of Spain's widespread "indignant" protests over the handling of an economic crisis, was the scene of clashes the previous night between activists and police.

Thousands of anti-papal protesters and hundreds of young Roman Catholics in Madrid for the August 16-21 World Youth Day celebrations had hurled insults at each other in the square on Wednesday night.

"I identify with the 15-M movement," said Perez. "I was here to show my indignation."

© 2011 AFP

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