^ Spanish coalminers demonstrate with their headlamps via asturgalicia
^ The Marcha Negra (Black March) reaches Madrid after walking 400 km to protest austerity measures
[text> Giles Tremlett / the guardian]
They came with helmets on their heads and the worried look of men with no future on their faces. But the Spanish coalminers who marched through Madrid on Wednesday were clear that they would not give up on their life-or-death struggle for the future of their collieries.
“We’ll keep going and, if nothing happens, the fight will just get harder,” said Jórge Exposito, a miner from Mieres, northern Spain, as fireworks crackled and twitchy riot police stood by with shields and guns loaded with rubber bullets.
A tense standoff saw occasional police charges, rubber bullets, and demonstrators hurling objects at police. At least 76 people were injured in clashes along Madrid’s central Castellana Boulevard, but the march eventually ended with nothing more violent than a rousing singsong.
The miners had arrived in the hope that the centre-right government of Mariano Rajoy could be persuaded to return to a programme of subsidies to mining companies that has been dramatically chopped by 60% this year.
Instead, the prime minister devoted the morning to announcing a further austerity package to save the government €65bn (£51bn) over the next two and a half years.
“All we are asking for is that they stick to the agreement,” said Isidro Castro, a former miner from the northern region of Leon. “That is not so difficult. If the mining companies don’t get their subsidies this year there will be nothing to negotiate next year as they will have to close.”
Tens of thousands of people turned out on Tuesday night to greet the miners who, with their helmet lanterns ablaze, strode into the city’s central Puerta del Sol, famous as the centre of Spain’s indignado protest movement.
Many see the miners as in the vanguard of the fight against austerity measures which were made still more drastic on Wednesday and threaten to deepen a double-dip recession.
But the government argues that Spain’s coalmines are making losses and EU rules do not allow it to subsidise them for much longer.
^ Itinerary of the Marcha Negra via #Acampadasol