Strike, Protests Paralyze Spain

Millions protest austerity drive, labor laws changes

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 30, 2012 3:10 AM CDT | Updated Mar 30, 2012 3:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Spain's leaders insist that the country will not become the next Greece, although yesterday's events certainly looked familiar to residents of Athens. Police clashed with demonstrators who torched trash bins and cars in Barcelona amid a nationwide general strike called by unions in response to labor law changes making it easier to fire workers, the BBC reports. Millions of people took part in over 100 marches around the country. At least 176 people were arrested, and dozens of protesters and police officers were injured.

The strike, which paralyzed much of the country, is the first major challenge to the new conservative government's austerity drive. The government is expected to unveil another $26 billion in cuts and tax increases today. Unemployment in Spain currently stands at 23%, the highest in the EU, with more than half of people under 25 out of work. "This country is going through an awful situation, and it's going to get worse," one unemployed young protester in Madrid told the Independent. "If we don't make ourselves heard now, we never will. I don't think we're going to end up like Greece, but they're using this recession to take away our rights as workers. It's just an excuse."

A riot police officer is seen during clashes with demonstrators during the general strike in Barcelona yesterday.
A riot police officer is seen during clashes with demonstrators during the general strike in Barcelona yesterday.   (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
A demonstrator outside a burning Starbucks in Barcelona.
A demonstrator outside a burning Starbucks in Barcelona.   (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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