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Thousands Surround Spanish Parliament in Bid to "Occupy Congress" and Stop Austerity

Amy Goodman brings us voices from the protest in Madrid


NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin today looking at the latest round of anti-austerity protests in Europe. Greek workers have launched their first general strike since the country’s conservative-led coalition government came to power in June. Tens of thousands of Greeks are converging today outside the Parliament in Athens. Protests are scheduled in over 60 cities. The general strike has brought the whole country to a standstill. The nation’s ports, airports, banks, schools, shops and tourist sites are all shut down. Aleka Papariga is leader of the Greek Communist Party.

ALEKA PAPARIGA: [translated] The European Union will never be a Europe for the workers. Every country of the European Union should fight to detach itself from the European Union. That is the new movement that should be taking place from every country in the European Union.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Meanwhile, in Spain, thousands of people surrounded the Parliament in Madrid to protest austerity measures and the loss of public confidence in elected leaders. The "Occupy Congress" protest came as the conservative administration of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy prepares to unveil further austerity measures on Thursday. After hours of protest on Tuesday, police in riot gear charged against demonstrators with batons and fired rubber bullets. Thirty-five people were arrested, and at least 60 people were injured. Brandon Jourdan and Carlos Delclos are in Madrid and filed this report from the protests.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER 1: [translated] We are surrounding the Congress, because we think that the center of power in Spain, where we are supposedly governed from, is here in the Congress. Today coincides with this month’s full congressional session.

SILVIA SUAU: [translated] There are lots of reasons to be angry, but especially the fact that there are over five million unemployed. I’m a student, and I can only study because I have a scholarship; otherwise, I couldn’t pay it. The elderly are being left with no medical care. I mean, there are so many reasons that it’s impossible to name them all. But I think the main ones are employment and the fear of being left out in the street.

VICTORIA: [translated] Because banking is a business where sometimes you make money and other times you lose some, when they have profit, they don’t redistribute, they just distribute it upwards, nothing for the people. But when they lose money, which I don’t think they do, they just take from our pocket and put it in offshore accounts. Well, I don’t understand how, but the government bails them out. Bail us out. Don’t cut education. Don’t cut healthcare.

CAROLINA SANTOS YANEZ: [translated] I’m here today because I fought for a fair democracy here in Spain when I was young. I’m 64 today. And now I’m here fighting for what costs us so much sweat and blood here in Spain, the stability we had that now the right is taking away from us. They’re setting us back to where we were when I was a girl. It’s the same. When I was young, this was what we had: hunger. Now we’re going back to that. And it’s the right’s fault that we’re going in this direction, because they won’t touch their own salaries.

JOSE ANTONIO: [translated] I have come here today because I think we, the everyday people, have a chance to tell the politicians, the bankers, the financial system in general, and the capitalist system that we’ve had it. It can’t be that all of the weight of this crisis they’ve invented is forced onto the people and workers.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER 2: [translated] There has been a large-scale police assault that makes no sense, because it’s been a protest with no violence. And the police are messing it all up. It’s an unsustainable situation. We have no idea where we’re going, and it’s really troubling. They’re destroying the youth of this country, and there just seems to be no remedy for it.

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