Thousands march against government austerity policies in Madrid (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
Anti-austerity protesters flocked to the city’s streets on Saturday to demand a higher minimum wage, job security, and an end to corruption. The demonstration, calling for improved workers’ rights and a stable pension system, was staged by dozens of trade unions and left-wing political groups.
The protesters marched through the city in four columns, dubbed “Unity,” “Equality,” “Liberty,” and “Solidarity,” going down four different routes towards the Plaza Neptuno square, where the march concluded. Protesters carried a giant banner reading “Bread, work, roof, and equality,” chanting slogans against Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, demanding the repeal of his government’s labor reforms.
While the march organizers claimed that at least 200,000 people participated in the march, local authorities put the total at 6,000. News agency AFP described the turnout as “tens of thousands.”
Rajoy, leader of the conservative People’s Party, assumed office in December 2011 and promptly began implementing labor reforms.
The government austerity measures include harsh budget cuts and increased taxes, including a 21 percent sales tax, implemented in 2012.
While the reforms have shown some positive results, such as economic growth and a drop in unemployment from 27 percent at the start of 2013 to 18.2 percent this year, they drew significant criticism from left-wing politicians and activists. Spain’s unemployment rate still remains among the highest in the EU despite the reforms.