PICTURES

Anti-austerity protest turns violent in Madrid

Demonstrators attack the facade of a Bankia's branch during clashes with police at the end of a march dubbed "the Marches for Dignity 22-M" to protest against austerity in Madrid on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Demonstrators attack the facade of a Bankia's branch during clashes with police at the end of a march dubbed "the Marches for Dignity 22-M" to protest against austerity in Madrid on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tens of thousands of demonstrators take part in a march dubbed "the Marches for Dignity 22-M" to protest against austerity in Madrid on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tens of thousands of demonstrators take part in a march dubbed "the Marches for Dignity 22-M" to protest against austerity in Madrid on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Anti-austerity demonstrators sit around a fountain in Colon square as they take part in a demonstration, which organisers have labelled the "Marches of Dignity", in Madrid on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Anti-austerity demonstrators sit around a fountain in Colon square as they take part in a demonstration, which organisers have labelled the "Marches of Dignity", in Madrid on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Riot police confront protesters after disturbances broke out at the end of a demonstration, which organisers have labelled the "Marches of Dignity", in Madrid on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Riot police confront protesters after disturbances broke out at the end of a demonstration, which organisers have labelled the "Marches of Dignity", in Madrid on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Anti-austerity demonstrators hold up a sign reading "Stop Evictions" as they take part in a demonstration, which organisers have labelled the "Marches of Dignity", in Madrid on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Anti-austerity demonstrators hold up a sign reading "Stop Evictions" as they take part in a demonstration, which organisers have labelled the "Marches of Dignity", in Madrid on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Anti-austerity protesters crowd into Colon square as they take part in a demonstration which organisers have labeled the "Marches of Dignity" in Madrid, on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Anti-austerity protesters crowd into Colon square as they take part in a demonstration which organisers have labeled the "Marches of Dignity" in Madrid, on March 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (REUTERS) - Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards rallied in Madrid on Saturday, March 22, 2014, against poverty and EU-imposed austerity in a largely peaceful protest later marred by violent clashes in which police fired rubber bullets.

Some protesters started to throw stones and bottles at the large numbers of riot police present and attacked cashpoints and hoardings. The police fired rubber bullets to disperse them, according to video footage seen by Reuters.

Central government representative Cristina Cifuentes said 19 protesters had been arrested and 50 police officers had been injured, one of them very badly, in the clashes.

The so-called "Dignity Marches" brought hundreds of thousands to the capital, according to estimates of Reuters witnesses. Travelling from all over Spain, they were protesting in support of more than 160 different causes, including jobs, housing, health, education and an end to poverty.

Banners urged the conservative government not to pay its international debts and to tackle Spain's chronically high unemployment of 26 per cent.

"Bread, jobs and housing for everyone", read one banner. "Corruption and robbery, Spain's trademark," said another.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says the economic crisis has hit Spain's poor harder than in any other country in the group.

"I'm here to fight for my children's future," said Mr Michael Nadeau, a 44-year-old entrepreneur.

"For those who are in power we're just numbers. They value money more than they value people," he said, shouting to be heard above the din of chanting, whistling and drumming.

A housing bubble burst more than five years ago, forcing a 41-billion euro (S$72 billion) bailout of Spain's banks, squeezing home owners and throwing millions out of work.

The government introduced public sector austerity to whittle down the deficit, provoking widespread anger amongst middle- and low-income families as dozens of cases of corruption in the ruling class are investigated by judges.

"(I'm here because) I'm sick of this system they call democracy," said Mr Jose Luis Arteaga, a 58-year-old teacher whose wage has been cut 20 per cent. "I want things to change."

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