The protests across Spain over the past two weeks to demand jobs, economic equality, and “real democracy” turned violent Friday for the first time.
Officials say 121 people were injured in Barcelona as protesters clashed with police officers clearing a makeshift camp. The police had previously told protesters the square had to be cleared so that cleaning services could move in to remove debris.
Catalonia regional Interior Ministry spokesman Felip Puig said 37 police were also injured. He did not say how many people had been arrested.
The protests that started just before the elections last weekend reflect the growing anger among 16- to 24-year-olds who face a jobless rate of an incredible 45 percent, and a construction sector slump that has caused nearly two years of recession.
Luna, a Spaniard protesting in Barcelona, who the AP described as having “a thick, dark, wild pony tail and the rich voice of a radio announcer,” said it was virtually unheard of for someone to get a job in their field in Spain right after graduation.
“I should be out looking for a job. But my heart tells me I should be here now,” Luna said.
Aitor Aguirre, a 32-year-old freelance photographer who has attended the protests in Madrid during the past few weeks, said police cracked down because they were worried about the highly-anticipated soccer match between F.C. Barcelona and Manchester United Saturday.
“The police [are] trying not to let people in such numbers be on the streets... just in case.”
Watch a video of the violence in Barcelona Friday below:
After being removed by police, protesters have now returned to Barcelona’s main square, Plaza de Catalunya.
Aguirre says popular assemblies are also planned in Madrid for Saturday and Sunday.