Spaniards crowded the streets in the Madrid center again last week in a fresh wave of protests against austerity measures set to soon hit the country.
Hundreds of protestors on bicycles filled La Gran Vía, a a major thoroughfare and the most famous street in Madrid, while chanting protest slogans against government cuts and the general malaise that has taken hold of the nation. Police were prepared, though, and had cordoned off the street in advance and had set up barricades with dozens of officers around the demonstrators.
The protest became violent at times. Fireworks or cherry bombs could be heard exploding a few blocks from Gran Vía, and there were a few scuffles between protestors and police. At one point a man burned a hole into the center of a Spanish flag as police officers watched tensely just a foot away.
The Thursday night protest followed a week of renewed demonstrations against Spain’s unemployment rate, the Spanish government, and drastic federal cuts in social welfare. The previous weekend, protestors organized a massive huelga general (“general strike”), which they dubbed the “Dignity Marches.” While organizers of the protest said almost two million people participated in Saturday’s protest in Madrid, city government officials said the true number was closer to 36,000.
Protestors included workers for Coca-Cola, which […Pictures & more info from protest inside…]
We are now in week two of the Limpieza strike in Madrid, by the city’s cleaners and gardeners. And I have to say, this is the first protest of the many I’ve seen since getting here that seems to actually be making an impact.
What the “strike” means is that cleaning services are operating at the very minimun possible — if I had to guess, maybe trash and recyclables are being picked up once every day or every other day. As a result, all the streets and trash cans are simply filled with garbage. In the plaza outside my piso, it’s difficult to even walk around because of the mountain of trash. It’s insane, and it makes Madrid look more like Delhi than a grand European capital.
WIth the education strike, it was a grand demonstration, but things went right back to normal the next day. The Cercanías strike is really not much more than a minor inconvenince. But this one, this strike by the cleaners, is something you see every minute of every day all around you. One-sixth of the workforce laid off, 40% cut in wages for those lucky enough to keep their job; I can’t say that I blame them.
Madrileños say this cleaners’ strike is unlike anything they’ve seen in Madrid in years, even decades. And as of right now, there’s really no end in sight.
An excellent story in the New York Times last week, on one specfic aspect of Europe’s economic crisis. I already knew that youth unemployment in Spain hovered around 57%, but I was unaware of how widespread that trend was in Europe. These are thousands and thousands of educated, smart Europeans with bachelor’s and even secondary degrees, and they are struggling and fighting to work in supermarkets and stockrooms.
Definitely worth a minute of your time.