European protests: Transport and public services hit, but for others it’s business as usual

 

 

Portugal

The wheels came off Portugal’s public transport system again yesterday thanks to the country’s third general strike in a year.

The state-owned airline TAP cancelled 45 per cent of its flights, the Lisbon metro – which carries half a million passengers daily – closed down completely, and the country’s main railway operator, CP Comboios, said most trains would not run.

The latest strike comes a fortnight after the Portuguese parliament voted in favour of legislation that will lead to the country’s most sweeping tax increases in recent history – averaging 30 per cent – which are said to be the equivalent of two months’ income for some Portuguese households.

A second vote on the bill, designed to keep the country’s €78bn (£62bn) bailout on track, is due later this month.

Some sectors of Portuguese society, such as Lisbon’s dock workers, have been on strike for months, and the usual anti-austerity protests in the city centre were swelled by large numbers of health workers – reportedly up to 90 per cent of the workforce in some hospitals.

Spain

Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards took part in dozens of demonstrations that concluded the country’s second general strike in eight months, protesting against severe anti-austerity measures in a country suffering both from a recession now in its fifth quarter and record-level unemployment.

Whilst well over 100,000 demonstrators marched in Barcelona and Valencia, the worst violence of the day’s strike suddenly erupted in Madrid at the tail end of of a demonstration that had seen tens of thousands of protesters take to the city’s central avenues.

Close to the Spanish parliament in the Paseo del Prado boulevard - where some of the worst anti-austerity violence in the country took place in late September -   police fired rubber bullets and charged to disperse groups of young protesters setting fire to rubbish bins, tearing down barricades and hurling missiles.  Then as ambulance sirens blared and some small groups sat  chanting on the ground opposite quickly formed police lines, others tore through a maze of nearby narrow streets setting more refuse containers ablaze, smashing some shop windows and leaving a dense smell of burnt plastic hanging in the air.

Prior to the evening’s violent conclusion, amongst the tens of thousands of Madrid protesters, the mood had been mostly good humoured, although the messages on many of the banners - “They rob and divide”, “Without fighting, what will you have?” and a simple “No” next to a giant pair of scissors representing the cuts -  were defiant.

“There have been so many cuts we haven’t got any paper left in my department. We can’t even afford ink for the printer,” one protester, a university teacher named Rubén, told The Independent.

“People are more and more angry. This strike isn’t going to achieve anything, but this is the only way of protesting we’ve got.”

“One day’s strike is not good enough... three days would be much more effective,” Antonio Rodriguez, carrying  a flag of Spain’s former Republic, said.

With much of heavy industry and transport paralysed by the strike, trade union leaders claimed overall 78 per cent of Spanish workers downed tools yesterday, slightly higher than in March 29th’s general strike, although Spain’s main business association, the CEOE, put the figure far lower - at 12 per cent.

Italy

Violent anti-austerity protests involving tens of thousands flared in towns and cities across Italy yesterday, while public services were crippled as the left-wing Cgil union called a general strike.

In Milan, where students and public sector workers led the protests, 10 police officers were injured as they attempted to stop stone-throwing activists from reaching the European Parliament offices. Elsewhere in the city banks were attacked, shop windows smashed and flares were let of in railway stations.

In Rome, groups of workers, students, teachers and the unemployed organised marches across the city. Some of the worst violence in the capital flared between far-right student groups and the police as authorities tried to seal off the Prime Minister’s residence, Palazzo Chigi, from the protesters, with running battles between police armed with tear gas and protesters.

Police also used tear-gas against thousands of students in the northern city of Turin after they massed at the construction site of the new Intesa San Paolo bank. One officer was reportedly beaten by a group of activists armed with sticks and baseball bats.

Greece

Teachers and municipal workers walked off the job at midday yesterday to attend a peaceful rally in the centre of Athens, while the union of journalists also called a three hour work stoppage. Protesters unfurled massive Greek flags and banners that read: “austerity kills dignity, reclaim Europe” and “the bailout will damage your health”.

But Athens is no stranger to strikes and violent protests, and yesterday the crowds were much smaller even than last week, when tens of thousands of Greeks assembled to vent their anger at the latest austerity measures. 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine