MADRID — Spanish police arrested 18 people early on Sunday as they cleared out Madrid’s central square of “indignant” activists who had spent the night as part of demonstrations to mark a year since the start of a global protest movement.
The police moved in on the Puerta del Sol square in the early hours and within minutes removed the several hundred activists who had defied an official warning to disperse after 10:00 pm (2200 GMT) on Saturday, an AFP photographer on the scene witnessed.
“There were 18 arrests made and two police officers were injured,” a police spokeswoman told AFP, adding that “the night passed without any major incidents.”
Activists called for a new gathering at Puerta del Sol from 1500 GMT, calling for supporters to turn out via Twitter using the #volvemosalas5 hashtag (#wewillreturnat5oclock).
On Sunday morning six vans of police officers remained at the square.
Police also cleared out without incident 100 demonstrators in Mallorca in the Balearic Islands and some 70 in Valencia, according to Spanish media.
Masses of chanting “indignants” poured into the streets across Spain on Saturday in a vast show of strength a year after sparking a global protest movement against economic injustice.
Madrid police estimated that 30,000 people had taken part in the protest during the day. In Barcelona, Spain’s second city, the turnout was 45,000 according to police, and 220,000 according to organisers.
The marches, held in 80 cities and towns across Spain, launched a four-day protest that will end on May 15, the anniversary of the movement’s birth — dubbed 15-M.
While Barcelona city hall seemed prepared to tolerate a camp for a limited period, the authorities in Madrid insisted that they would not allow a repeat of last year’s month-long sprawling encampment in Puerta del Sol that included everything from a canteen to a kindergarten and a library.
Spain’s conservative government, in power since December, has issued a permit for the “indignants” to use Puerta del Sol for a five-hour assembly Saturday and for 10 hours on each of the following three days.
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the government would ensure that the regulated hours were respected.