Miners clash with police over cuts

Two civil guard officers hit by bottle rockets fired by masked protestors

A protester pours fuel onto a flaming roadblock in Pozo Santiago de Aller, Asturias.
A protester pours fuel onto a flaming roadblock in Pozo Santiago de Aller, Asturias. J.L.Cereijido (EFE)

Two civil guard officers were injured on Friday after they were reportedly hit by bottle rockets when they tried to disperse a group of protesters who had set up a roadblock near Oviedo. The protests took place on the 12th day of a ground transportation strike in Asturias called by miners' unions protesting the Rajoy government's plans for a 63-percent reduction in public aid to the coal mining sector this year.

At least 27 roadblocks were set up across the northern region as protestors tried to prevent supplies from getting through. On Thursday, the train route connecting Asturias with León was blocked for practically the entire day by miners and their supporters, many wearing masks, who hurled rocks and other objects at anti-riot police.

Protesters on Friday dragged a large tree onto the rail line between stations in Puente de los Fierros and Malvedo to stop a transport train. The train ran into the tree, dragging it along several meters. No injuries were reported from the accident, which occurred at around 12.30pm. According to Renfe officials, there were five such rail blocks in Austrias.

David Morevid, mayor of the town of Aller, said police broke up one demonstration "with rubber bullets and tear gas." It was the second day of violent standoffs between police and miners.

In León, the focus of the unrest throughout the day was centered on the A-6 and Nacional VI motorways, near San Román de Bembibre. A group of about 150 miners blocked traffic as they tried to keep transport trucks and other vehicles off the road. The roadblocks began at around at around 11.45am and lasted until about 2pm.

By late afternoon, traffic in Asturias was flowing again in many areas, but there were still obstructions reported on rural roads such as the AS-112 and AS-15. Three of the rail connections had also been restored, but at press time authorities reported blockages near Oviedo. Trees and other debris were placed on rail lines in San Román.

Although there were small incidents reported at dawn, miners began increasing their roadblocks during morning rush-hour traffic throughout the two regions. Traffic was stopped for up to 45 minutes in some cases.

Rail lines that operate between León and Gijón were again cut off with debris by early morning even though they were cleared the previous day, according to the Railway Infrastructure Administrator (ADIF). In many parts of Asturias, protestors put up signs near the roadblocks to remind motorists about the problems in the coal mining sector.

On Friday, the A-6 and National VI motorways were the scenes of the biggest confrontations. From early morning, miners near Carracedelo in León blocked off the roads, keeping all types of vehicles from passing through. Daring masked protesters waited for the police to arrive so they could begin throwing rocks and firing bottle rockets at officers. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in response to try to scatter the miners. A similar situation occurred in Ciñera, in León province, when some 50 miners and their supporters also battled it out with riot police.

The UGT and CCOO labor unions have called for a general strike for the two regions on June 18.

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