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Protesters filled streets across the world last week for International Worker's Day, or May Day — and Spain, with the highest unemployment rate in the European Union, was no exception.
The economic crisis helped fuel tensions on an occasion with a history of violence, and police clashed with demonstrators in Greece, Turkey and Germany, but Spaniards in Madrid marked the occasion without violence.
Workers and union representatives took to the streets, calling for socially conscious measures that will keep Spain’s sinking economy afloat. The country is on the verge of deflation, threatening to drive the 17 percent unemployment rate even higher, to as much as 20 percent, according to some estimates.
“What we want to accomplish today is to call the attention (of) employers and governments and say we are here, we are trade unionists and we are with all the people and we are strong,” said Fatima Aguado, a member of the union CC.OO. “I think we have lived in a sort of make-believe story. If you have to pay for a house and two children while depending on a precarious job, for example, how can you go out on the streets and announce a strike?”
Above, the group gathers to load up the drums and put on T-shirts. The protesters moved to the beat of a youth group comprised of a couple of dozen percussionists in their 20s-30s. The newspaper reads, "Millions of reasons to head to the streets. Mobilize May 1. You shouldn't pay for the crisis."
The official theme of this march was “Confronting Crisis: Jobs, Public Funding and Social Services.” Aguado said: “Our slogan ‘Confronting Crisis: Jobs, Public Funding and Social Services’ is our way of saying to the government and employers that in the midst of this crisis, we must remember the importance of public administration and public services. To protect more people suffering the crisis. We are more than 4 million unemployed now in Spain, it’s very high, and almost 1 million are at risk of social exclusion because they have used up their social benefits. So we say that now is the time for the government to protect more and more the workers.”
CC.OO. (Comisiones Obreras) and UGT (Union General de Trabajadores) are Spain's two biggest unions and they both took center stage with marchers waving red flags with their initials.
The sign reads: "Crisis, Plague, War, all because of so much inequality." One attendee, Pablo Roldan, an administrative worker who recently returned from the U.K., said: “I was working in Britain for a few years. I lost my job there because the crisis came there first. So I came to Spain looking for a job but I also found the crisis here. I am now unemployed and the only thing saving me is my family because otherwise I couldn’t survive really.”
(Click here for photos from May Day celebrations in Istanbul.)