Spaniards hit the streets in dozens of cities on Saturday to protest against the forced evictions of people behind on their home loans. They marched with banners and slogans like "save the people, not the banks."
Police estimated that 5,000 people turned out in the capital Madrid alone to protest against the forced evictions of people behind on home loan repayments. The number of such evictions has snowballed in the past five years in Spain since the so-called housing bubble burst. Roughly 350,000 people have been thrown out of their accommodation since 2008.
Protesters in Madrid carried banners with messages including "save the people, not the banks," also chanting "stop forced evictions" and "we are homeless."
Barcelona and Seville hosted similar major demonstrations, after a homeowners' lobby (PAH) called for action in more than 50 towns and cities. The majority of the marches were peaceful, although police intervened in Madrid to escort two politicians - who wanted to take part in the demonstration - away from angry protesters.
Spain is struggling with an unemployment rate of more than 25 percent, with the figure well over 50 percent among people aged 18-25. The country's ailing financial sector has received international emergency loans, with the bank bailout billed as a way to prevent wider outside assistance.
A retired married couple committed suicide in Spain on Tuesday, leaving a note saying they were about to lose their house. At least three other people are thought to have killed themselves for similar reasons. Responding to a public petition, the Spanish parliament agreed to debate legislation to better protect the most impoverished home owners.
Portuguese austerity protests
People in neighboring Portugal took to the streets of Lisbon on Saturday, protesting against public spending cuts and tax increases implemented as part of a deal to secure emergency loans from European partners and the International Monetary Fund in 2011. One banner read: "Our sacrifices are landing in the pockets of the thieves: the bankers and politicians."
Portugal's economic performance has worsened with the introduction of austerity measures, with the recession deepening and unemployment rising to 16.9 percent - roughly 40 percent among young people.
The CCTP trade union that called for Saturday's protests said several tens of thousands had joined in around the country.
msh/lw (AFP, AP, dpa)