Spain: Protesters vote to stay in Madrid tent city

Protest in Puerta del Sol, Madrid, 29 May 11
Image caption The crowds remain defiant in the heart of Madrid

Thousands of protesters in central Madrid have voted to continue their mass sit-in against the government's economic austerity measures.

Many remain camping in Puerta del Sol square, though the crowd is smaller than at the peak just before Spain's 22 May local elections.

On Friday, police in Barcelona used rubber bullets and batons to break up a similar rally in a central square.

Young people angry at high unemployment used social media widely to unite.

The Madrid protest began on 15 May and spread to other Spanish cities as word got around via Facebook and Twitter.

"We are not going! We are not going!" the crowd chanted on Sunday night, raising their hands in a vote to remain on the square.

They set no date to pack up their tents, defying the local authorities and businesses who have urged them to go.

Spain's unemployment rate is the highest in the EU, at 21.3%. For the under-25s, it has risen to 44.6%.

Street politics

The protesters, calling themselves "los indignados" [the indignant] and "15-M", are demanding jobs, better living standards, a fairer system of democracy and changes to the centre-left Socialist government's austerity plans.

Voters delivered a crushing defeat to the Socialists in local elections a week ago.

The tent city protesters have organised themselves into groups to look after food, cleaning and publicity.

Image caption Police clashed with protesters in a central square in Barcelona on Friday

In Barcelona, dozens of protesters were hurt when police cleared protesters from the Plaza de Catalunya on Friday. The police action came on the eve of Barcelona's football final in the Champions League, when big crowds of fans were expected in the streets.

But many protesters returned to the square later and the Barcelona rally is continuing.

Thousands of protesters are also camping out in the cities of Seville, Valencia and Logrono. But in Toledo, protesters have decided to pack up a similar tent city and leave.

On Sunday night, police in Paris dismantled tents erected by protesters in Place de la Bastille who gathered to show their solidarity with the Spanish protesters.

A crowd of about 1,000 was dispersed by police in the square, a Paris landmark as symbolic as Madrid's Puerta del Sol.

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