Spain’s Parliament "took on the appearance of a heavily guarded fortress" today, according to the AP, as police sealed off the perimeter in anticipations of thousands of protesters converging on the conservative government for an event dubbed "Occupy Congress."
Police (the BBC reports some 1,300 police are at the Congress building) surrounded Parliament even though protesters state they have no intention of storming the chamber, but instead plan to march around it.
One of the main protest groups, Coordinadora #25S, said the Indignants did not plan to storm parliament, only to march around it.
"It will be a non-violent action," she told AFP news agency, asking not to be identified.
"We are not going to prevent members of parliament from entering."
Under Spanish law, individuals who disrupt parliamentary business while the government is in session can be jailed for up to one year.
Coordinadora #25S’s manifesto reads: "Democracy has been kidnapped. On 25 September we are going to save it."
"Parties who have betrayed their manifestos, their constituents and the public at large breach promises and contribute to impoverishment of the population," the 25S statement continues. "We believe that the time of the decisions made by a few is over, for, against those who want to leave us without a future, we have the means and collective intelligence to decide and build the society we want."
Demonstrators are calling for new elections in response to the government’s austerity measures implemented in part to convince the country’s euro partners that it’s serious about refusing its deficit during a time when nearly a quarter of the population is unemployed. The government is expected to unveil a new batch of reforms Thursday when it presents a draft budget for 2013.
The austerity measures have included public sector pay cuts and a substantial increase in sales tax.
In anticipation of 25S, police cut off main routes to Congress with a double layer of metal barricades, "backed by vans and with a helicopter hovering overhead," the AP reports.
Rallying outside the city’s Atocha railway station, Carmen Rivero, a 40-year-old photographer and "indignant" anti-establishment activist, said she travelled overnight in a bus with 50 protesters from the southern city of Granada to make her voice heard.
"We think this is an illegal government. We want the parliament to be dissolved, a referendum and a constituent assembly so that the people can have a say in everything," she said.
"We don’t agree with the cuts they have made."
Meanwhile, the right-wing People’s Party (PP) has attempted to smear the protest as an "attempted coup" by the indignados.
"Spain is on the brink of insolvency and under huge pressure to accept a rescue package," Katharine Ainger writes in the Guardian, "In return, Europe’s fourth largest economy will have to surrender sovereign and financial control to the IMF, the European commission, and the European Central Bank."