MADRID: More than 800,000 people joined vast demonstrations against austerity across Spain, capping a day of Europe-wide strikes and rallies, the government said on Thursday.
A total 819,600 people took part in the rallies Wednesday, which descended into sporadic violence leading to 155 arrests and 77 wounded including 43 police, the Interior Ministry said.
The government estimates are conservative, however.
For example, a sea of protesters carpeted central Madrid and the leading daily El Pais calculated their number at 175,000 based on photographic images and a detailed estimate of crowd density.
But the central government office for the city said there were just 35,000 people in the rally.
It was the second general strike in eight months in Spain, the fourth biggest eurozone economy, which is deep in a recession that has left one in four workers unemployed.
Spain’s protests were far bigger than others held on a day of Europe-wide strikes and protests.
The country’s main unions said millions of workers joined Spain’s general strike and more than a million took part in the Madrid protest to decry an austerity clampdown in the midst of recession.
Portugal held a general strike the same day, Greece and Italy called work stoppages and other European countries including France, Belgium and Poland held protests to show support.
Spanish youths burned bins in central Madrid, shattered the windows of a KFC fast-food store, and hurled bottles and stones at police, who responded with rubber bullets and baton charges. In the northeastern city of Barcelona, youths set a police van ablaze.
Portuguese police struck protesters with batons after coming under a hail of stones and rubbish from them.
In Italy, about 20 activists were seen beating an officer with sticks and baseball bats in Turin, officers and youths enaged in running street battles in Milan and police used armored cars to push back stone-throwing protesters in Rome.