Public discontent over the Spanish government’s severe austerity program has led to a bizarre spectacle in the northeastern city of Barcelona where at least 2,000 protesters tried to block the Catalan parliament to expression their anger over local budget cuts and job losses.
Some senior government officials, including Artur Mas i Gavarró, the Catalan Prime Minister, were forced to arrive in their offices by police helicopter since demonstrators had blocked entrance ways. The El Pais newspaper claimed at least 25 deputies were transported to parliament in this manner.
Catalan government officials are meeting to discuss and debate the budget, but it is believed only half of parliament showed up.
According to Agence France Presse, Catalan officials are seeking to cut public spending and social welfare programs by 10 percent.
Spanish news reports indicate that local police created a barrier to prevent the crowd from entering the parliament. Nonetheless, several parliament deputies were heckled and shoved as they made their way into the building. One deputy was even attacked with red paint.
The Barcelona protest paralleled a similar scenario in Athens where Greek demonstrators tried in vain to block the entrance to their parliament building in order to prevent a vote on austerity measures.
Reportedly, a group of youthful activists named “los indignados (the outraged ones), primarily organized the rally in Barcelona. They have staged similar demonstrators across Spain to protest the government’s draconian budget.
While unemployment is a serious problem across Europe, in Spain the situation of particularly egregious. The Spanish jobless rate currently stands at 21 percent (the highest such figure in the European Union), with almost half of young people out of work.