Police Fire Rubber Bullets At Spanish Protesters

Austerity protesters in Spain have launched a new movement dubbed "Occupy Congress." They are surrounding the Spanish Parliament with a human chain. After more than a year of mostly peaceful protests, this one got violent.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

People aren't getting much work done in parts of Europe, treading water there. Greek workers called a nationwide strike for today, protesting austerity measures. Last night, there were violent protests in Spain. Demonstrators launched a new movement dubbed Occupy Congress, surrounding the Spanish Parliament with a human chain before clashing with police.

Lauren Frayer was in the crowd in Madrid.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Thousands of Spaniards rallied outside parliament, the symbol of Spanish power and increasingly the target of anger over the dismal economy. Spain has Europe's highest jobless rate, near 25 percent.

Silvia Alvarez is a public school teacher forced to take a pay cut amid government austerity measures. She blames Spain's ruling conservatives.

SILVIA ALVAREZ: They just do what the companies tell them and the banks tell them. And I think as citizens, we have to go outside into the streets to claim our rights to say no to the politics, because that is the real democracy.

FRAYER: After more than a year of mostly peaceful protests, this one got violent.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

FRAYER: Riot police fired rubber bullets. More than 60 people were hurt, and dozens arrested. Tomorrow, Spain unveils a 2013 draft budget expected to include more cuts to health care, education and early retirement programs. Madrid desperately wants to avoid a second, larger EU bailout beyond what it's already getting for its troubled banks. But rapid cutbacks can be destabilizing, says economist Gonzalo Garland at Madrid's IE Business School.

GONZALO GARLAND: More adjustments leads to more recession, and more recession makes it you not being able to comply with the objective. And therefore you have to adjust a second time, and therefore you fall further into a recession, and therefore - this is what is dangerous.

FRAYER: Unemployment is rising, tax revenue is falling, and several Spanish regions say they're nearly broke. Spain may have no choice but to turn to Europe for help. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer, in Madrid.

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