Barcelona: Angry crowd pursues Catalan MPs

Protest near Catalan parliament, 14 Jun 11 The "indignados" movement has raised tensions as Catalan MPs consider budget cuts

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More than 2,000 protesters in Barcelona have tried to blockade the Catalan parliament in a display of anger at regional budget cuts.

The Catalan prime minister, Artur Mas, was among several officials who arrived by police helicopter because protesters were blocking park gates nearby.

Spanish media say police formed a cordon to keep the crowd away from the parliament, which is inside the park.

But some deputies were jostled and heckled on their way in.

A key budget debate got under way after a delay, with only half of the deputies present.

The protest took place at the same time as a similar one in Athens, in which activists tried to encircle the Greek parliament in a futile attempt to stop MPs debating new austerity measures.

Greek protesters known as "the indignants" have taken their lead from the protests that have swept through Spain in recent weeks, bearing the Spanish civil war protest banner "No pasaran" (they shall not pass), alongside Greek and Spanish flags. As in Spain, many young Greek protesters accuse the political establishment of corruption and dodging austerity themselves.

Most of the Barcelona protesters were organised by a youth movement called "los indignados" (the outraged ones), which has staged rallies and sit-ins across Spain in anger at austerity measures.

The Catalan budget for this year envisages a 10% cut in public spending and social welfare, the AFP news agency reports.

Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the EU, at 21%, and in some areas of Spain nearly half of young adults are out of work.

In eight shuttle flights a police helicopter took some 25 deputies and officials in the centre-right government directly to the parliament on Wednesday, the newspaper El Pais reports.

Despite the police cordon, protesters at the gates of Ciutadella Park sprayed one deputy with red paint and daubed a black cross on the coat of another official.

Several hundred protesters had camped outside the park overnight.

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