Spanish youth rally in Madrid echoes Egypt protests

Crowd in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square, 18 May 11 The Madrid crowd are rallying supporters and building momentum through social media networks

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About 2,000 young people angry over high unemployment have spent the night camping in a famous square in Madrid as a political protest there grows.

A big canvas roof was stretched across Puerta del Sol square, protesters brought mattresses and sleeping bags and volunteers distributed food.

The nature of the peaceful protest, including Twitter messages to alert supporters, echoed the pro-democracy rallies that revolutionised Egypt.

The Madrid protests began on Sunday.

On the first evening, police dispersed the protesters, but on Tuesday they let them stay overnight.

Spain's 21.3% unemployment rate is the highest in the EU - a record 4.9 million are jobless, many of them young people.

Spanish media say the protesters are attacking the country's political establishment with slogans such as "violence is earning 600 euros", "if you don't let us dream we won't let you sleep" and "the guilty ones should pay for the crisis".

The atmosphere in the square has been quite festive, with the crowd singing songs, playing games and debating.

They are demanding jobs, better living standards and a fairer system of democracy.

About 50 police officers are deployed in side-streets off the iconic square and outside the Madrid municipal government building.

The protesters are not identifying with any particular political party, Spanish media say, but they are getting more organised.

In another echo of the Cairo rallies that eventually forced President Hosni Mubarak from power in February, the Spanish protesters have set up citizens' committees to handle communications, food, cleaning, protest actions and legal matters.

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