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Furious protesters have taken to the streets across Europe, as clashes with police break out in Germany, France, Austria and now Spain. The protests have been launched largely in response to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic from their national governments and the EU. Last night, violence broke out in the Salamanca district of Madrid following four days of street protests.
Following two months of one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, Spain’s government is battling growing resistance to its handling of the crisis from fed-up residents who have started organising street demonstrations against restrictions.
Spain began loosening the lockdown this week, allowing up to ten people to gather together and enabling bars and restaurants to open up outdoor tables.
However, large cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, have been blocked from this lockdown lifting plan after they were deemed to be still at risk of a spike in infections.
This prompted the latest protest which was largely directed against Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, with many demanding his resignation.
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Dozens of people occupied the Calle Núñez de Balboa, with one telling reporters: “Have I ever seen anything like this? Never on this street.”
In response, National Police were deployed to defuse the situation, prompting tense clashes with protesters.
There was a significant police presence on Thursday following days of protests, in the hope of squashing the anti-lockdown movement.
The President of the Community of Madrid Isabel Díaz Ayuso, from the conservative Popular Party, encouraged the protests.
On Thursday she said that “families are locked up in their homes and they can’t go out and protest freely, even though it’s just a little while in their own street”.
She accused the central government of “imposing all kinds of barbarities”.
Ms Ayuso warned that future protests will make the ones held this week “look like a joke”.
Opposition far-right party Vox has also provided its support to the protesters, with the party’s spokesman in Congress, Iván Espinosa de los Monteros sending a message online to those taking to the streets.
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He offered his support “to all neighborhoods across Spain who have decided to demonstrate” against the government’s management of the COVID-19 crisis.
Mr Monteros said he was hopeful that the protests “will spread like wildfire,” adding: “They will spread very quickly throughout Spain and if they want to stop it, they will only throw gasoline on the fire.”
However, other politicians have pointed out that the Salamanca district of Madrid is one of the richest in the capital.
Far-left party Podemos branded the movement “demonstrations of the upper class” pointing out that many of the protesters were carrying golf clubs.
Just over 27,000 deaths have been attributed to coronavirus in Spain, with 217 deaths reported on Thursday.
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