Thousands of students marched in cities across Spain on Wednesday to protest the latest government austerity measures.

In an effort to counteract its swelled deficit, the Spanish political leadership -- the recently elected Conservatives who swept away the Socialists in the last election -- has enacted a number of unpopular cost-cutting measures that have hit the education system hard.

Unemployment in Spain is the highest in Europe at 23 percent, and is above 50 percent for people between 16-24 years old. With the budget cuts zeroing in on education funding, many students fear that the worse is yet to come.

We did not create this crisis but we are paying for it in every sense, the leader of the national students' union Tohil Delgado told Agence France Presse (AFP), ahead of Wednesday's marches.

They are making cuts in public education, they are giving us no option to work, and on top of this when we protest democratically they beat us with complete impunity.

Student organizers called for a nationwide education strike, and protestors in Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid shut down public roads and stage sit-ins.

According to the BBC, the budget situation has become so severe that parents in some communities are having to support local public schools from the their own pocket.

Education is the [basis] of everything and it is the first thing they cut. It is in our field, research, where they are cutting the most, 18-year-old environmental science student Claudia Holgueras told AFP.

The protests turned violent in a number of places, with police and small groups of anarchic youths clashing in Valencia and other cities.

Most of the violence took place in Barcelona, where a group of students who broke off from the larger protest group set fire to garbage cans and furniture outside of the city's stock market. When confronted by the police, who charged against a crowd, according to The Associated Press, some fled to the University of Barcelona campus.

Other demonstrators broke the windows to local bank branches. An unknown number of people were arrested.

15-M

Spain has been embroiled by austerity protests almost continuously for the past nine months. Much like the Arab Spring, the 15-M movement in Spain and other parts of Europe was one of the inspirations for the Occupy Wall Street protests, which started in the United States and spread over the world.

As in Greece, the so-called Spanish Revolution started on May 15, 2011 (hence 15-M) to protest against austerity measures, as well as the country's perceived inability to resolve its massive debt crisis.

Students in Valencia, whose university has been been hit especially hard by the budget cuts, have also launched the Tomalafacultad (Seize the faculty) movement and they are spending the night inside university buildings.

On Wednesday, union leaders in Paris, Athens, Lisbon and Brussels staged demonstrations in solidarity of the Spanish students.