Baton-wielding riot police charged, beat and arrested several demonstrators at a student protest against spending cuts in the Spanish city of Valencia on Monday, reporters at the scene said.
The clashes broke out in the mid-afternoon after students protesting against education budget cuts, which they say have left classrooms without heating, demonstrated outside a school and came up against police barricades.
Photographs and videos from the scene showed youths with bleeding faces and baton-wielding police in helmets and body armour chasing, beating and dragging people along the ground as the clashes continued after nightfall.
El Pais newspaper said on its website that police fired rubber bullets, and media reported numerous injuries.
Valencia regional police chief Antonio Moreno said police used “proportionate physical force” in comments to reporters broadcast on Spanish radio.
“Greater aggression requires a proportionate response,” he said.
A Valencia police spokesman confirmed to AFP that arrests had been made, but could not confirm how many.
“There were demonstrators acting aggressively and so there were arrests,” the spokesman said, adding that police had acted to “restore order”.
Spanish media reported between 14 and 21 arrests, including several minors.
Valencia police spokesmen were not available late Monday to confirm details of the arrests and injuries.
Similar skirmishes broke out in Valencia last week during student protests, part of a series of demonstrations across Spain against government measures including spending cuts that are hitting public services.
Monday’s protest in Valencia was organised largely via online social networking sites.
Valencia is the most indebted of Spain’s regions, which are making tough spending cuts that the government says are necessary to strengthen Spain’s economy, hitting health, education and security services.
Spain is widely expected to enter recession in the current quarter after its economy contracted at the end of 2011.
The opposition Socialists on Monday issued a demand for the interior minister and chief of police to address parliament to explain what the party called the “heavy-handed repression” of last week’s protests.
A few dozen youths protested outside the education ministry in Madrid in sympathy with the Valencia demonstrators on Monday evening, an AFP photographer at the scene said. No incidents were reported at that gathering.
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