3,000 off-duty national police officers rallied outside the Ministry of the Interior in Madrid on Saturday, protesting austerity measures and budget cuts, including the loss of their Christmas bonuses.
The officers, wearing blue caps, some wrapped in Spanish flags, blocked the central Paseo de la Castellana Boulevard in Madrid, while their on-duty colleagues looked on. The protesters charged and threw fireworks into the air. One banner said "Police officers can no longer take it."
One protester apparently required medical treatment, when a firework he intended to throw, went off in his hand.
The demonstrators are members of the Confederación Española de Policía (CEP), the Unión Federal de Policía (UFP) and the Sindicato Profesional de Policía (SPP).
As with all Spanish civil service workers, police are being hit by the country's attempt to get the debt crisis under control. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy revealed a 2013 austerity budget earlier this month, as the country continues into its second recession in three years.
As part of the latest cuts, starting January 1, police will lose three of the six days of supplementary holidays that they are allowed every year, in addition to their regular vacation, wage cuts when on sick leave, along with the loss of their Christmas bonus.
Fran Estacio, a 33-year-old officer from Valencia, told AFP, "We came to express our anger at the way the government treats us, not only because they have removed Christmas bonuses, but also because they are eliminating our rights."
Unemployment in Spain hit a record twenty-five per cent this week, which is the highest since the Franco dictatorship ended almost 40 years ago.
Update: In a separate demonstration, around 40,000 protesters are surrounding the Congress building in Madrid on Saturday evening to protest against austerity measures.