Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of some of Europe’s biggest cities yesterday as workers sent a strong warning to governments across the continent.
In Ireland, Catalonia, Belgium, Spain, Greece and around 10 other countries, well-attended demonstrations, called by the European Trades Union Confederation [ETUC], were held in opposition to the ruthless economic austerity plans of the economic and political status quo.
The major march of the day took place in Brussels, where around 100,000 demonstrators from various surrounding countries gathered in defence of workers’ rights and public services.
Protesters in the Belgian city included steelworkers from the Ruhr, office workers from Wallonia, miners from Silesia and civil servants from Lille, all demonstrating against the job losses, deferred retirement ages, diminished pensions and cuts to schools, hospitals and welfare.
“Why should the workers have to bear all the costs of this crisis?” asked Kazimierz Grajczarek, a 57-year-old miner from Bielsko-Biala in Poland, who came to Brussels by bus on Tuesday.
“They give all the money to the banks and we have to carry the costs.”
In the Catalan capital Barcelona, protestors occupied the Bank de Espana de Credito as a general strike swept across the Spanish state.
Riot police opened fire with rubber bullets on demonstrators, who responded by hurling bricks and building barricades, while a police car was also set on fire.
More than 50,000 marched through Lisbon in Portugal, with another 20,000 gathering in Porto.
Other countries where mass action was organised, included Slovenia and Lithuania.
John Monks, the general secretary of the ETUC, described yesterday as a “crucial day for Europe”.
“This is the start of the fight, not the end,” Monks said.
“That our voice be heard is our major demand today – against austerity and for jobs and growth. There is a great danger that the workers are going to be paying the price for the reckless speculation that took place in financial markets.”
Ireland played its part in the continental day of action. At noon yesterday, more than 2,000 public service workers and supporters, including many éirígí activists, marched from several hospital assembly points across Belfast into the city centre.
Meanwhile, in Dublin, around 1,500 demonstrators gathered outside Leinster House for the first day back of the Twenty-Six County Dail. Earlier in the day, a lone protestor drove a cement mixer emblazoned with the slogans “Anglo Toxic Bank” and “Sack All Politicians” up to the gates of Leinster House and abandoned it, causing consternation among the establishment politicos attempting to enter the building.
Cathaoirleach éirígí Brian Leeson said: “Yesterday’s events were a powerful example of international solidarity. It goes to show that, while the business and political establishment of Europe have ganged up in the EU and other rich man’s bodies, the working people of Europe can do their cooperating on the streets.
“All of us who are opposed to the slash and burn policies of the governments in our own counties and the EU have a responsibility to build solidarity and cooperation across Europe and further afield. We must also work diligently to ensure that reactionary elements are not allowed to use the crisis in capitalism to stoke the fires of racism.
“Yesterday was a good start in this process. Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.”
Different Name, Same Aim
Campaign for British withdrawal
We Only Want the Earth!
No British Royal Visits!
Workers in Struggle
Reclaim The Republic
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