/ 6 August 2011

Thousands march in Madrid against riot police charge

Thousands marched though the streets of Madrid on Friday against the use of force by police against demonstrators who rallied at the interior ministry to protest the closure of the city’s main square.

At least 20 people were injured after riot police late Thursday charged hundreds of demonstrators who had gathered outside the ministry after trying unsuccessfully to gain access to Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square for the third straight day.

Seven of the injured were policemen. It was the most serious incident since the “indignant” movement began in mid-May against Spain’s economic crisis, soaring unemployment and political corruption.

Television images showed several protesters with blood on their faces being surrounded by police or being loaded into ambulances.

Many of the protestors at Friday’s march wore orange stickers that read “Very Fragile”.

They chanted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “Abuse of Power” as they stood in front of the interior ministry, which was protected by more than 50 riot police who stood side by side outside the entrance to the building.

Oriol, a 33-year-old whose arm was broken during the police charge on Thursday, tried to give a white carnation to the head of the riot police.

The policeman refused to accept the flower but shook hands with the protester after a brief chat.

“I asked them to be more respectful of the protesters. My goal was to show that it does not matter if they hit us, we are not afraid. I think this movement deserves the people’s support,” he told AFP, refusing to provide his last name.

“I had my back to the police and they struck me three times, once in my arm. The riot police hit everyone, women, old people.”

The police say they were forced to intervene after some protesters tried to climb the ministry’s fence to hang a sign. The demonstrators say there was no violence on their part.

Police cleared dozens of “indignant” protesters who were camped at an information point in the Puerta del Sol square and along the central Paseo del Prado square in a dawn operation Tuesday that resulted in no injuries or arrests.

Since then members of the movement have staged daily demonstrations where they try to gain access to the square but have been blocked by rows of riot police.

Police on Friday did not prevent the protesters from entering the square. — Sapa-AFP