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Anti-austerity protest turns violent in Spanish capital

By Al Goodman, CNN
updated 10:07 AM EDT, Sun March 23, 2014
Demonstrators confront police in Madrid as an anti-austerity protest ends in clashes.
Demonstrators confront police in Madrid as an anti-austerity protest ends in clashes.
  • 101 people injured in Saturday night violence
  • Police arrest 24 demonstrators, including three minors
  • "March for Dignity" was the first major anti-austerity protest in Madrid in months
  • Violence erupted after the official close of the demonstration

Madrid (CNN) -- Cleanup was under way Sunday on damage to bus stops and outdoor cafes in central Madrid, after austerity protests turned violent Saturday night in the Spanish capital and left 101 people injured. There were 24 arrests.

The injured included 67 national and municipal police officers and 34 demonstrators. Eleven were taken to hospitals, including a national police officer who was kicked in the head, lost his riot helmet and lost consciousness, spokesmen for the central and Madrid city governments said.

The 24 demonstrators, including three minors, who were arrested face potential charges of assaulting police officers, vandalism, and setting trash bins on fire. Arraignments could begin later Sunday. City street crews and other workers were carrying out the cleanup as authorities evaluated the damage.

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As has become a pattern at many Spanish protests, the violence came only at the very end of what had been hours of peaceful, noisy and energetic protests.

The so-called "March for Dignity" was the first major anti-austerity demonstration in Madrid in several months, aimed at telling the government that there is still widespread suffering in Spain despite official pronouncements that the beleaguered economy is recovering.

Read more: Madrid, city of protests

Spain's unemployment rate is 26%, with nearly 5.9 million people out of work. Hundreds of protesters in six columns from around Spain have been marching for weeks on the capital to draw attention to the situation.

On Saturday, they reached Madrid and were joined by tens of thousands of protesters, who converged along the capital's main boulevard from the Atocha train station to Colon Plaza, where a stage was erected for speakers.

It was near the stage, at the end of the march, that the violence erupted after the official close of the demonstration at 8 p.m. local time, even as many protesters were already leaving the area to find transportation home.

There have been hundreds of protests in Madrid -- by teachers, doctors and other specific groups -- against the government's austerity measures, aimed at reducing the budget deficit. But the march on Saturday tried to include all of these groups under a broad "March for Dignity" banner.

Read more: Thousands protest 'anti-protest' law
Read more: The faces of Spain's economic crisis

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