Spanish protesters clash with police

Thousands of Spanish "indignant" protesters rallied against austerity cuts before some of them clashed with police, who charged demonstrators with batons.

Surrounded by 20 police vans, they stood outside the headquarters of the Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and shouted "resign, resign!" and "they are lining their pockets!"

Carrying signs that read "They call it democracy, and it isn't", they then headed for the headquarters of the opposition Socialist Party, which they also accuse of incompetence in the face of the crisis.

However, they were pushed back by riot police before the demonstrators moved on in the direction of parliament. At least five people were arrested, AFP journalists reported.

This week Rajoy - obliged by Brussels to order new cuts and tax increases to meet deficit-cutting commitments - revealed a new 65-billion-euro austerity package.

It includes a sales tax rise, lower jobless benefits and public sector pay cuts, measures expected to add to the pain amid a 24.4-per cent unemployment rate that among the youth stands at 52 per cent.

"With these cuts, they are ruining us," charged 30-year-old protester Pedro Lopez, a former law student who said he now faces an employment freeze in the judicial bureaucracy.

Earlier Friday, King Juan Carlos made a rare political comment, calling on the government not to forget Spain's unemployed as it decides on austerity measures to battle debt.

"No one should be excluded from the outcome of the economic recovery that we all want and hope for," the king told a cabinet meeting, which he has the constitutional right to chair but seldom does.

"I'm referring particularly to the young and those who suffer a lack of employment and prospects for the future," said the 74-year-old monarch.

In July Spain is to become the fourth eurozone country, after Greece, Ireland and Portugal, to get bailout funds when it receives the first tranche of a 100 billion euro ($122 billion) kitty for its banking sector.

Spain's "indignant" protest movement was born in early 2011 in a sprawling encampment at Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square. It inspired similar protests, from Britain to the United States' Occupy Wall Street.

- AFP

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