Around 5,000 Spanish police officers marched through the streets of Madrid on Saturday to protest government austerity measures, including frozen pensions and the elimination of their Christmas bonuses.
Officers travelled from across Spain to take part in the demonstration which was called by the nation’s main policing union.
Protesters blew whistles, shouted slogans, and carried anti-austerity banners as they marched through the city centre to the interior ministry.
“Citizens! Forgive us for not arresting those truly responsible for this crisis: bankers and politicians,” read one banner.
The Spanish government has imposed harsh spending cuts aimed at saving 150 billion euros between 2012 and 2014. The move has been met with anger and protests from hundreds of thousands of Spanish citizens.
The austerity measures are in exchange for a rescue loan of up to 100 billion euros from the EU to help the country’s stricken banks.
“The problem is they take from us to give to others, like the autonomous regions and the banks,” 33-year-old police officer Antonio Perez told AP.
But it’s not just their pay the police are worried about.
A spokesman for Spain’s Unified Police Union, Jose Maria Benito, said the cuts will affect the nation’s security, adding that working conditions have become more precarious and law enforcement equipment was no longer up to standard.
“We are here to tell the government that security has to be its priority…in socially convulsive times, we need an adequate police response,” Benito told AP. He added that 15,000 workers who have left the force were not going to be replaced.
“Each year, between 1,500 and 2,000 police officers retire and 125 are recruited, which means in three or four years, there will be more insecurity and crime in Spain,” the union’s general secretary Jose Maria Sanchez Fornet said in a speech.
The rally comes just three days after an anti-austerity strike in Spain rolled out across the EU – hitting Portugal, Italy, Belgium, and Greece.