Hundreds of thousands of students and teachers, joined by parents and other supporters, took part in massive rallies across Spain on Tuesday as the culmination of a one-day classroom strike to protest cuts in education by the central and regional governments.
At press time, the demonstration were peaceful, although tense moments were reported during the day, such as in Seville, where a group of fascists tried to crash one rally, and in the Balearics, where handfuls of students charged the offices of the island’s education commissioner, which ended in a noisy struggle.
In Barcelona, city police estimated the street turnout at around 25,000, while unions placed the figure at 150,000. Similar discrepancies were reported in Madrid, where people poured into the Cibeles square to protest against plans by Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre to lay off a number of teachers and their assistants.
The five biggest unions that represent education workers across the country called for the one-day strike in all 17 regions — from kindergarten to university level — to object to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s proposed 21-percent spending cuts to education, as well as his administration’s call for regional governments to save a combined additional three billion euros.
“The government has to change its policy and its economic direction in general, and should issue a statement that it intends to keep the social model we have intact,” said CCOO secretary general Fernando Toxo, who took part in a rally in Bilbao. “There are other types of reforms that can be introduced and they are not necessarily the ones they are taking.”
The Culture, Education and Sports Ministry said that only 19 to 22 percent of the nation’s public school classrooms were empty on Tuesday. But the unions claimed that at least 85 percent of schools and universities were unable to hold classes.