reported today on the coal miners' long walk to Madrid to protest against the austerity measures and cuts in the mining sector.
The coal miners are protesting a 63% cut in subsidies to their industry, which is a major contributor to the Spanish energy market. Unions say that around 38,000 people
could lose their jobs through these cuts.
The coal miners have been hiking from northern Spain for the past two weeks to Madrid, to protest the austerity measures.
, it was reported that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had announced new austerity measures, including the increase in VAT from 18% to 21%. Thousands more people turned out on to the streets in protest against yet more austerity measures in the already crisis-torn country.
The Spanish Prime Minister announced the increase in VAT by 3% as part of the plan to trim the public budget by 65 billion euro over the coming two and a half years. Rajoy further declared a 3.5-billion euro cut to local government spending and many other austerity measures
Things got nasty as the riot police moved in with shields and rubber bullets, and started firing at the protesters. 76 people were injured in the process, including 33 police officers and 43 protesters, including miners and their supporters.
Arrests have been made, with 8 people detained. Of those arrested, 3 reportedly threw bricks at the police, according to the Spanish language El Pais newspaper
. Police have confirmed that no miners were amongst those arrested.
Olvidio Gonzalez, 67, who is a retired miner from northern Asturias told Associated Press
that protesters panicked and sought shelter when the police started to disperse the crowd. Gonzalez was struck by a rubber bullet in the police charge.
“We were walking peacefully to get to where the union leaders were speaking and they started to fire indiscriminately,” he said
Demonstrators and witnesses at the scene claim that the police started attacking without any warning.
Hermann, a miner from Langreo in northern Spain, told El Pais
, "We were eating quietly when they began to appear with several police vans. Then we started to shout and some threw a few bottles, which gave rise to the charge."
Images of the scene in Madrid can be viewed on The Telegraph's website
Protesters are calling on Spaniards via Twitter and Facebook to join larger protests at 19:30 Spanish local time tonight.
In the video below, Miguel-Anxo Murado, journalist and writer, tells RT that the government seems to underestimate the protests.
“They think they can cope with these protests partly because mining regions are localized in certain areas of the country. These are small areas. So they think that this will not affect the rest of the country. The truth is that the miners are getting a lot of solidarity because many people relate to them and see their problems as their own problems,” he said.