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Madrid police fire rubber bullets outside parliament

Police in Madrid have fired rubber bullets at protesters as a rally took place outside the country’s parliament building. Demonstrators angry at a deepening of austerity measures called on the government to resign.

Officials estimated that 6,000 protesters took to the streets of the Spanish capital on Tuesday night when violence erupted.

Thousands gathered and formed a human chain around the assembly building and there were also attempts to break down metal barriers protecting the lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies.

Protests stretched to the nearby Neptuno Plaza, close to the city's famous El Prado museum. Officers fired rubber bullets and used truncheons in a bid to clear the area. Hundreds remained in the area into the early hours of the morning, with lines of riot police continuing to guard the parliament.

The website of Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that 26 people had been arrested and some 64 injured, 16 of them needing hospital treatment. Among the injured were 27 officers. More than 1,000 officers were drafted in from across the country to help deal with the dispute.

The protest was apparently promoted over the internet and are linked with the "indignant" movement of activists who insist that Spain's political classes have failed the population.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government has made deep cuts to the public sector and is due to make more as part of the 2013 budget. The country's unemployment level is about 25 percent, with young people particularly affected.

rc/ccp (dpa, Reuters)