MAYDAY protests passed largely peacefully in Spain this year, despite predictions that the demonstrations would become violent.
Thousands of protesters marched in the capital, snaking up the Gran Via central shopping street, waving flags and carrying placards reading ‘austerity ruins and kills’ and ‘reforms are robbery’.
Demonstrations also took place in Barcelona, where May Day marchers paraded through the city to express their anger over the government’s austerity programme.
But the scenes of rioting and violence seen in other European cities were absent in Spain, despite more than 100,000 people taking part in protests in 80 cities across the country.
Although the turnout seemed to be smaller than at last year’s protests, union leaders insisted there was a great deal of anger expressed throughout Spain.
“There has never been a May 1 with more reason to take to the street,” said Candido Mendez, head of the UGT union, one of two main unions that called on workers and the unemployed to join the protests.
Spain has witnessed record unemployment this year, as the government grapples with the debt crisis by pursuing a number of stinging austerity measures.
“The future of Spain looks terrible; we’re going backwards with this government,” said former civil servant Alicia Candelas, 54, who has been out of work for two years.