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29 Sep, 2012 17:56

Clashes erupt as Madrid cops squelch austerity protest (VIDEO)

Sporadic clashes have broken out in central Madrid, with twelve people reportedly injured after riot police moved in to clear the Plaza de Neptune, threatening to arrest those who would not leave.

­The demo turned violent when police encircled about 300 protesters who refused to leave the square. The demonstrators chanted slogans, while some threw projectiles at police vehicles.Twelve people have reportedly been injured as Madrid's police split up the crowd, giving protesters the choice to either leave or face arrest. Two people have been arrested, El Pais reported.A group of roughly 100 protesters tried to organize a sit-it, but left without incident, with police not trying to detain any of them.The organizers of the protest have reportedly agreed to hold a meeting on Sunday to decide on the future actions of the movement.

In Spain, demonstrators spoke out against government spending cuts, tax hikes, and the nation’s alarmingly high unemployment rate. The protest was centered near the Spanish Parliament building in the city’s downtown district.Eager to make known their disapproval of the current administration, the crowd let off loud whistles near Parliament and yelled, “Fire them, fire them!”, referring to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government.Authorities were bracing themselves for the march, after similar demonstrations last week led to violence and arrests. On Friday, Rajoy’s government presented a 2013 draft budget that will cut overall spending by 40 billion euro, freezing public employees' salaries, cutting unemployment benefits and reducing spending for Spain’s royal family.The Rajoy administration says the country’s austerity program will continue into next year, along with the economic recession. More than one in every two Spaniards under the age of 24 is currently jobless, while the national unemployment rate has reached nearly 25 per cent when considering all working age groups.Spain's recession worsened this year, after austerity measures designed to help the country's crippled economy hampered consumer spending.

The country’s GDP also fell 0.4 per cent from the previous quarter, according to the Madrid-based National Statistics Institute. And the situation is unlikely to get better anytime soon – Spain’s economy is expected to shrink between two and three per cent over the next two years. Many worry that the country will become the fourth Eurozone state to seek a full bailout – something Prime Minister Rajoy says will not happen. However, many experts say it’s only a matter of time before the country requests one.Madrid has already asked for help with its banks. Eurozone finance ministers have agreed to lend the country 100 billion euros to help its financial sector.

Tens of thousands rally on the streets of Lisbon

In Portugal, demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the country’s 78-billion euro bailout ahead of the announcement of the government’s 2013 draft budget, which will include new tax hikes and cuts to social programs.The protest, which was organized by Portugal’s biggest union, came after the center-right government announced a hike in social security taxes – inciting widespread anger.Demonstrators marched through Lisbon shouting, "Let the fight continue," and carried banners reading "Go to hell Troika, we want our lives back."Portugal is currently facing its worst recession since the 1970s, with an unemployment rate of over 15 per cent.