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Anti-Austerity Strikes

November 15, 2012 by  

Anti-Austerity Strikes, Police and protesters clashed in Spain, Italy and Portugal on Wednesday as millions of workers went on strike in organised labour’s biggest Europe-wide challenge to austerity policies since the euro zone debt crisis erupted three years ago.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled, schools were shut, factories were at a standstill and trains barely ran in Spain and Portugal where unions held their first joint general strike. Stoppages in Belgium interrupted international rail services.

Workers also protested in Greece and France against austerity policies that have taken a heavy economic toll and aggravated mass unemployment.

But the demonstrations organised by the European Trade Union Confederation seemed unlikely to force hard-pressed governments to change their cost-cutting strategies.

In Spain, 118 people were arrested – including two allegedly with material to make explosives – after confrontations at picket lines and damage to storefronts. Riot police fired rubber bullets at protesters in central Madrid in one brief clash. Some 74 people were hurt.

“In austerity, there is only depression and unemployment,” Fernando Toxo, head of Spain’s biggest union, Comisiones Obreras told tens of thousands of demonstrators in central Madrid.

Even non-union workers jointed protests and marches.

“This isn’t about politics or unions. This is social and economic. If we have to shut down the country we’ll shut it down,” said 24-year-old Mariluz Gordillo, a non-unionised phone operator at El Corte Ingles department store in Madrid.

In Rome, scuffles broke out between police in riot gear and demonstrators who threw stones, bottles and fireworks at police. About 60 demonstrators were detained. Protesters occupied Pisa’s mediaeval Leaning Tower for an hour, hanging a banner reading “Rise up. We are not paying for your crisis”.

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