Spaniards march against ‘wasteful’ street revamp

Police arrested 11 demonstrators in Madrid on Wednesday as people across austerity-hit Spain marched in support of a protest against costly plans to redevelop a street in the northern city of Burgos.

Spaniards march against 'wasteful' street revamp
Opponents argue the street revamp is a waste of money that could be better spent on social services during Spain's deep economic crisis. Photo:Cesar Manso/AFP

Several thousand people turned out for the sixth day running to demand the authorities definitively pull the plug on the revamp, which has a price tag of €8 million ($11 million) and will reduce free parking spaces.

Burgos mayor Javier Lacalle announced a temporary stop to the building works on Tuesday but signalled construction would resume within weeks.  

Nightly protests began on January 10 and have spread from Burgos, to Madrid and to the town of Valladolid.

Demonstrations of some form have now be held in 48 cities across Spain according to Spain's left-leaning El País newspaper. 

Wednesday's demonstration in Burgos passed off with no incident but the protest in Madrid at the iconic Puerta del Sol saw clashes and street chases between truncheon-wielding police and protesters hurling projectiles.

Anti-riot police units charged a crowd of around 500 when the march reached the headquarters of the ruling right-wing Popular Party. Spain's Europa Press news agency reported 14 people had been arrested. 

The protesters — bearing Spain's republican flag as well as flags from the city of Burgos and the region of Castile and Léon — also called for the release of three youths held in custody after an earlier demonstration in Burgos turned violent, a correspondent from news agency AFP reported.

"We are all Gamonal!" yelled protesters, a reference to the Burgos neighbourhood at the centre of the drama.

"Riot police out of Burgos!! was the call from members of the Collectives of Young Communists of Spain.

Police have arrested 40 people since the demonstrations began, as protesters burned garbage containers, smashed windows and tore down security barriers.

Burgos mayor Javier Lacalle has suspended work on the redesign, which opponents argue is a waste of money that could be better spent on social services during an economic crisis that has left one in four people in Spain out of work.

The plans for Calle Vitoria in Burgos include reducing the lanes of traffic to just one each way instead of two, adding a bike lane and green spaces and replacing free parking spaces with a paid underground car park.

Lacalle argues the project will improve the quality of life of the 170,000 residents of the city, known for its dark-stone old town and castle and a statue of the medieval adventurer El Cid.

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