​'Bread, jobs, dignity': Crowds gather for anti-austerity march in Madrid

Spaniards have gathered for an anti-austerity rally in the Spanish capital’s center. Almost a year ago, a similar protest in central Madrid turned violent and hundreds were injured.

Spanish police deployed some 1,200 officers to monitor Saturday’s protest, which is called Marches of Dignity. Up to 20,000 people are expected to show up.

Nine columns of demonstrators, who have been on the march for several days, are converging in Madrid’s Plaza de Colon (Columbus Square) for a massive anti-austerity rally.

The protesters gathered by some 300 social action groups and trade unions are demanding “bread, jobs, housing and dignity” from the government. They are also advocating holding a general strike later in October.

“We want to take back the rights that were stolen from us,” one of the protesters told RT.

“Poverty and unemployment rates have grown. The social model the government is applying has failed,” another one said.

The Spanish economy remains in poor shape due to the economic slowdown, with the unemployment rate surpassing 23 percent. The government had to cut many public services and spending as part of an austerity drive designed to address the budget deficit.

The demonstrations come almost a year after a similar event in March 2014, which turned violent and resulted in over a hundred of people, most of them police officers, being injured.

Organizers of this year’s rally pledged to keep the event peaceful and lawful. Fewer people are expected to show up this Saturday.

The protest comes a week after the Spanish senate passed a controversial bill, imposing harsh regulations on protesting in the country. Critics called the legislation a “gag law” due to serious restrictions on public gatherings and fines for violating them. The bill is expected to be passed into law in April.