Spain austerity: Thousands join new budget cuts protest

Thousands of people flocked to Spain's parliament building, chanting anti-austerity slogans

Thousands of people have joined fresh protests in the Spanish capital, Madrid, angered by budget cuts and calling on the government to quit.

Demonstrators held a minute's silence with their backs to parliament, then shouted "resign" with fists clenched.

Parliament was guarded by hundreds of police officers.

PM Mariano Rajoy's government plans spending cuts of about 40bn (£32bn) euros for next year as it tries to prevent the need for an EU bailout.

The Spanish government has found itself in financial difficulty since the 2008 global financial crisis caused a big crash in the country's over-heated property market.

New figures this week showed about a quarter of working-age people in Spain were now unemployed.

'Taking everything'

Saturday's protesters came from all over the country and were met by vans of riot police, says the BBC's Pascale Harter in Spain.

Just hours earlier, she says, 300 police had staged their own protest in the capital, setting off fire crackers and blowing police whistles over the same issue - budget cuts.

One banner read: "The police can't take it any more."

Austerity protests also took place in Barcelona, Valencia and other cities.

One protester in Madrid, Sabine Alberdi, told Agence France-Presse: "I came to demonstrate because they're taking everything away, our health, our education, our houses."

Mr Rajoy's programme will require spending cuts of 150bn euros between 2012 and 2014.

Having spent almost a year in office, Mr Rajoy has tried to head off a full-blown EU bailout by introducing tax increases, labour reforms and public sector cuts.

However, output has now contracted for five quarters in a row.

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