There were literally millions of people out demonstrating on the streets of Europe yesterday in the largest European general strike ever held. One thing they all agreed on, "We have no future!" Includes videos.
In total, workers in 23 countries across Europe participated in the European Day of Action and Solidarity. As reported by Digital Journal on Wednesday, some actions were small and others were full-blown strikes. The Europe-wide strike action was coordinated by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and promoted on Twitter under the hashtag “#14N.”
"There is a social emergency in the south," said Bernadette Ségol, the secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation. "All recognize that the policies carried out now are unfair and not working."
Thanks to the ETUC, European labor unions united for the very first time since the start of the European debt crisis. People have had enough of the austerity measures imposed on them and are attempting to stave off decades of austerity and unemployment
Millions of workers walked off their jobs and marched on their Parliament buildings, right across Europe. Many of the rallies were met with police action and some ended up in violent clashes.
In Spain and Portugal, general strikes paralyzed public services and stopped international flights. In Spain, Portugal and Italy, bloody street battles ensued. In France and Belgium, transport links were partially disrupted by demonstrations and strikes, and in Greece and Italy, thousands of students and workers marched through the streets. Small actions were held in Austria, Germany and Poland, with well-attended, union-led rallies.
Around 300,000 protesters took to the streets all over the country rallying against Prime Minister Mario Monti’s austerity measures.
In over 100 Italian cities, workers observed a 4-hour stoppage in solidarity with the Spanish, Greek and Portuguese workers. Milan and Rome witnessed thousands of students clashing with riot police which led to many injuries. In Sardinia, two ministers had to be evacuated after angry protesters stormed a meeting and burned cars. Industry Minister Corrado Passera and Minister of Territorial Cohesion Fabrizio Barca were safely evacuated by helicopter.
Rome saw running battles between the police and protesters, as rioting workers and students blocked the streets and confronted the police, throwing bottles, rocks and firecrackers. Police fired teargas and arrested more than 50 people. Around 17 police officers were injured.
Smaller clashes occurred in Naples and Brescia, with thousands of students blocking railway tracks. In Genoa, they blocked the entrance to the ferry port. Other cities saw banks smeared with eggs and in Bologna, 10,000 students attempted to march through a line of riot police.
In Pisa, protesters occupied the leaning tower of Pisa with a banner reading, “Rise Up! We are not paying for your Euro crisis!”
Last week the Greeks had a strong, 48-hour anti-austerity strike, and were relatively quiet on Wednesday with around 5,000 protesting in Athens. Protesters called for a three-hour work stoppage in solidarity with Spain, Italy and Portugal.
As protesters marched on Syntagma Square carrying flags, they chanted “Athens, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon - everyone in the streets!” While there were minor clashes with the police, the rally was mostly peaceful.
So far, many have survived the years of austerity and recession in Greece by relying on the support of family or handouts. "But when that dries up, and it will with these latest measures, there will be no reason not to descend en masse on to the streets," said Kostas Kapetanakis, a young sociologist in Syntagma Square. "There will be a revolt because we will have absolutely nothing to lose," he added.
President of the National Foresters' Association, Nikos Bokaris, stood with other civil servants outside Parliament on Wednesday. Bokaris fears that Greece was being pushed towards a huge explosion.
"Civil servants feel they have been very unfairly singled out," he said. "I am very afraid that the country is heading for a massive social upheaval with huge consequences for public safety and order. All it will take is a spark."
France:In France there were 130 strikes and protests in over 100 cities. The French General Confederation of Labor referred to the November 14 strikes as the first “social movement of this scale” in the history of the EU.
In Paris, protesters were heard to chant, “Let’s demand solidarity” and “Austerity can seriously damage your health”.
François Chérèque, head of the CFDT, said that the protests were directed against European heads of state, telling them: “You cannot impose this type of austerity, it’s too dangerous for the economy and, above all, too dangerous in social terms. It leads to tragedies, a blocked economy. We cannot go further,” he said.
As railway and air travel ground to an almost total halt in Belgium, workers marched on the European Commission. Eggs and firecrackers were thrown at the Portuguese Embassy in Brussels in solidarity with workers throughout Europe.
However it was the Iberian peninsula that saw the most action on November 14.
Spain currently has the highest unemployment rate in the industrialized world. According to the unions, around 9 million workers, or estimated 80% of the workforce, took to the streets across the country on Wednesday. All major cities saw streets filled with protesters, traffic jams and transport halts.
Countrywide the most popular slogan was "Rajoy Go Home", regarding the outrage of Spaniards over Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's austerity measures and public spending cuts, which have led to an almost 26% unemployment rate.
Madrid, November 14, 2012
In Madrid and Barcelona, more than 142 people were arrested and around 74 people were injured, including 43 policemen, as police fired rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse protesters. In Barcelona, protesters set police cars on fire and smeared banks and ATM machines with paint and graffiti.
In Madrid, the streets were littered with leaflets, reading “They leave us without future. They are the guilty ones. There are other solutions.” Police helicopters began flying low over central Madrid as soon as the strike started and stayed there all day.
In Tarragona, a 13-year-old boy was wounded when a police officer struck him on the head with a baton.
Portugal saw strike actions in around 40 cities and towns countrywide. Lisbon was worst hit, with transport brought to a halt, the subway shut down, rail strikes left commuters stranded, and half of the flights were cancelled. Thousands protested the record 15.8% unemployment rate.
In Lisbon, protesters stormed the parliament building in the event, shouting, "The troika does not rule here!" They were met by a violent crackdown from riot police, leaving many protesters injured. The Lisbon demonstrators were finally dispersed, after more than an hour of standoff.
A selection of photos of the various protests Europe-wide can be viewed here.
Sky News kept a running live feed of the action yesterday here.