Protests against Spain's economic crisis have swept across the country, drawn comparisons to the Arab Spring, and helped deal the ruling Socialist party their worst electoral defeat in more than three decades. They've also been relatively peaceful, but that changed today when riot police wielding truncheons and firing rubber bullets tried to disperse protesters in a nearly two-week-old camp in Barcelona's central Plaza de Catalunya. And all in the name of soccer.
The police, AFP explains, were trying to clear the square temporarily for anticipated celebrations related to the FC Barcelona-Manchester United Champions League soccer final on Saturday, but around 50 protesters sat down on the street to block cleaning trucks from dismantling the makeshift camp. Catalan officials say 84 protesters and 37 police were injured in the subsequent skirmishes, according to the AP, with protesters moving back into the square later in the day. "Once the cleaning is finished they can go back but without the tents, knives and potentially dangerous objects," a police spokeswoman explained, according to AFP. In reference to the Champions League match, one protester responded, "Our match is more important."
Footage of the violent clashes has surfaced this afternoon. In this clip, via The New York Times, police strike at demonstrators with batons, bloodying some:
This footage shows police firing something (given AFP's report, we assume rubber bullets):