Riot police clash with Barcelona protestors

Riot police in central Barcelona clashed today with protesters at one of the makeshift camps that have been erected in cities across Spain to protest against high unemployment and other woes.

A Catalonia regional police official said people were injured in the clashes but would not say how many.

The Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia said 99 people, including 12 police officers, were hurt. All but two were light injuries, the paper said.

Television images showed police beating protesters with truncheons, and kicking and dragging them along the ground.

Riot police were accompanying workers tasked with cleaning up the nearly two-week-old camp at the city’s Plaza de Catalunya and police used force when protesters would not evacuate the camp temporarily as requested.

The official said police fired blanks in a bid to disperse the protesters.

He said the officers had wanted to clean the square of material such as bottles, sticks and camping gas containers for security reasons before possible celebrations on Saturday after the Champions League final in London in which Barcelona are playing.

Once the square was cleaned, the protesters returned en masse and police left, he said.

United behind the slogan “Real Democracy Now”, tens of thousands of mostly young people have set up protest camps in cities and town across Spain since May 15 to voice their discontent over the government’s handling of the economic crisis and what they see as Spain’s corrupt political party system.

Nearly two years of recession has left Spain with a eurozone high unemployment rate of 21.3% and major debt problems.

The biggest protest has been in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square. About 500 people continued camping in the plaza today and activists said they would be staying for several days more.

Spain’s interior ministry has so far declined to send police in to clear up the squares but minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said today he would study a call by the Madrid regional government to dismantle the Puerta del Sol camp following complaints that it was harming trading in the area.

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