Massive demonstrations against austerity rocked cities across Spain on Thursday night.
There were around 300,000 people in Barcelona. Firefighters blocked roads to keep riot police away from the demonstration. The streets of Sevilla and Valencia were packed out too.
In the capital Madrid, unions claimed 800,000 people and even newspapers acknowledged hundreds of thousands. It was a bigger demonstration than the one that accompanied the general strike in March.
At Atocha station, half a mile from the starting point, all the trains were full of people on their way to the demonstration. On the metro I saw one of the guards talking to a friend. “We have to get there, it’s going to be awesome,” he said.
The demonstrations were called by Spain’s biggest union federations. They are protesting against a cuts programme that amounts to a Spanish version of the “shock therapy” inflicted on developing countries.
Spain’s right wing prime minister Mariano Rajoy announced the cuts just as the spirit of the ongoing miners’ strike was spreading to other workers across Spain.
It has particularly struck a chord with public sector workers, who have marched on congress every day of the past week against Rajoy’s cuts to their wages.
The demos have been joined by firefighters who have been fighting cuts and attacks on their conditions for two years now. In Madrid they were among those leading a breakaway march through police lines to the congress building.
University student Isa told me she had had enough of the government once she realised her tuition fees were about to triple—and she is far from the worst hit.
Songs and slogans celebrated the power of workers’ struggle and the need to fight back. One popular chant was “Mariano—you won’t last the summer.”
As the anger and determination of the miners, the firefighters and the indignados movement continues to spread, Spain has all the ingredients for a very hot summer.
Helios Alonso is a member of En Lucha, the Socialist Workers Party’s sister organisation in Spain