Spanish police cleared out Madrid's central square in the early hours after some of the thousands protesting the economic situation decided to stay beyond the authorized hours. Further demonstrations are planned.
Police dispersed some 200 protesters from Madrid's Puerta del Sol square early on Sunday, following a massive Saturday rally protesting against Spain's economic problems and perceived injustices in solving them.
The protesters, part of the 'indignants' movement, had been asked to vacate the square after 10 p.m. local time Saturday evening (2000 GMT), with police moving in roughly seven hours later.
Local media reported relatively little unrest, mentioning four people injured - including two police officers - and 17 detained.
Police in Madrid estimated that about 30,000 people had taken to the streets earlier on Saturday during the officially sanctioned daytime protest. As many as 80 such events were staged around Spain, including a demonstration whose turnout rivaled Madrid's in the second city of Barcelona.
The activities marked the beginning of a four-day protest leading up to May 15, the 2011 date credited as the birth of the movement - also called 15-M.
Last year's demonstrations in Madrid transformed into almost a month-long sit-in in the central square, with rudimentary services even set up to cater for the 'indignants' - something the city authorities seemed keen to forbid. The protesters have been granted the right to assemble for 10-hour time periods over the coming three days, but not to stay overnight. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the government would ensure the prescribed time periods were respected.
Spain is in the process of passing a series of reforms and cutbacks in a bid to shore up the country's national debt and avoid the need to follow in the footsteps of eurozone members like Greece, Ireland and Portugal by calling for international loans.
On top of the typical debt and bank-related concerns, the country faces the highest unemployment rate in the EU. Official government figures published late in April put the joblessness rate at 24.4 percent, while 52 percent of 18-25-year-olds looking for employment are without work.
Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who took office on December 21 last year, has defended his cost-cutting policies, saying they are necessary to steady the Spanish economy.
msh/tj (AFP, AP, dpa)