(Irish Times) Police fired rubber bullets on protesters in Barcelona today in efforts to clear them from the main square after more than two weeks of demonstrations against the political and economic situation in Spain.
Two people were earlier arrested and 46 received minor injuries as Catalan and local police tried to dismantle a camp in the Plaza de Catalunya.
Demonstrators have occupied the main square in the Catalan capital and have maintained substantial protest camps in other major Spanish cities since May 15th in a wave of outrage over the economic crisis, political stagnation and unemployment.
Dubbed the ‘movimiento 15-M’ (‘May 15th movement’) and ‘los indignados’ (the angry ones), the protesters have made formidable use of social media to promote their campaign. Protesters are using the Twitter hashtags #acampadasol and #spanishrevolution to highlight what is going on minute by minute.
The Spanish national newspaper El País reported that police moved into the Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona early this morning to clear the protesters temporarily to allow “cleaning” of the area for health reasons.
But the protesters refused to move to allow cleaning crews in, instead claiming they were being “evicted”.
Police surrounded a group of about 200 protesters while cleaning crews removed the camp, including bedding and tents.
El País said dozens of youths remained on the perimeter of the square attempting to block police vehicles and cleaning services.
Police opened a passage for vehicles at the Ramblas side of the square – the side leading to the main pedestrian thoroughfare through the city centre.
A total of 46 people, including one policeman, were slightly injured. Five were transferred to hospital.
Hundreds of protesters also continue to occupy the main square in Madrid, Puerta del Sol.
Spain’s ruling Socialists were hit by massive losses in local elections last weekend and now have to balance voter anger over high unemployment and investor demands for austerity measures.
The elections left the Socialists out of power in most of the country’s cities and almost all of its 17 autonomous regions.
Prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has nevertheless pledged to stay on to the end of his term in March next year.
Demonstrations are set to take place in Dublin and Cork at 2pm tomorrow in a display of solidarity with the Spanish protesters.
The protests have been organised by members of Ireland’s Spanish community and by local people who support the ongoing protests in Spain.
Organisers have banned flags and political party banners and have urged that there be no violence or alcohol/drug use.