Barcelona – More than 40 Spanish protesters suffered injuries in altercations with police in Barcelona Friday, as pressure mounted on demonstrators to end nearly two weeks of sit-in protests around the country.
Five of the protesters were taken to hospital, medical sources said. The injured also included one police officer.
Similar clashes were reported in Lerida, while Madrid’s governing conservatives called on Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist government to disperse hundreds of protesters in the capital’s central Puerta del Sol square.
The protest camp there was becoming ‘almost a slum’ that hampered business and tourism, PP representative Francisco Granados said.
The protesters form part of the so-called M-15 movement, launched on May 15, which brought tens of thousands of people to the streets ahead of that Sunday’s local and regional elections.
They are demanding a profound reform of Spain’s democratic system, which they see as serving the interests of financial markets. The movement also criticizes corruption and Spain’s 20 per cent unemployment rate, the eurozone’s highest.
Police were ordered to avoid incidents ahead of the elections, and allowed protesters to occupy dozens of squares around the country.
But on Friday, Barcelona police ordered demonstrators to remove their tents, mattresses, sofas and other objects from Catalonia Square.
Police said the protesters needed to leave temporarily to allow cleaners to enter the square and to avoid unrest following a Champions’ League final football match between FC Barcelona and Manchester in London on Saturday.
Protesters tried to block entrances to the square, with some attacking cleaning vehicles, media reports said.
Police used batons and fired into the air to disperse the demonstrators, who said cleaning the square was a pretext to violate their democratic rights.
Police left after dismantling the protest camp, after which about 1,000 demonstrators were allowed to enter and stay on the square.
In Lerida west of Barcelona, about 100 people clashed with police, who removed tents and other materials to make room for cleaners. Two people were detained.
An entrepreneurs’ association threatened to take legal action if the protesters were not forced to leave their Madrid encampment ‘immediately.’