Anti-austerity protesters return to Madrid plaza

July 24, 2011 - 3:44 PM
APTOPIX Spain Financial Crisis

Thousands of demonstrators gather at Puerta del Sol, Madrid's main square Saturday July 23, 2011. Spaniards angry about their country's economic crisis protested in Madrid after spending about a month marching to the capital from their hometowns. (AP Photo)

MADRID (AP) — Thousands of protesters angry about Spain's brutal economic woes once again filled Madrid's downtown Sol square Sunday after many spent weeks marching hundreds of kilometers (miles) from far-flung cities across Spain.

Seven columns of marchers converged on the city late Saturday and met at the square where thousands camped out for three weeks in May. They were joined by more who took public transport into the capital.

"Politicians don't represent us! No! no! No!" the crowd chanted, with some waving handmade banners reading "It's not a crisis, it's the system that's wrong."

Some protesters began their march 34 days ago and walked 650 kilometers (404 miles) from the southwestern city of Cadiz.

Physiotherapists and masseurs accompanied demonstrators to treat them for aching legs and blistered feet.

Protesters say they are outraged with politicians for failing to solve Spain's high unemployment and accuse them of being uncaring, corrupt and inept.

"You will find highly qualified people in this demonstration because we can't get a job," said Amanda Sastre, 24. "All we want is the dignity of being able to earn a living."

Two years of recession following a property boom that went bust left Spain with 21 percent unemployment — the highest in the 17-nation eurozone. Joblessness for those aged 16 to 29 stands at about 35 percent.

Spain also has a swollen deficit and is battling to convince investors it can handle its debt and will not need financial help like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.