BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Politicians in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region used police helicopters to get to the regional parliament to avoid some 2,000 demonstrators protesters who tried to blockade the building Wednesday to protest planned budget cuts in education and health.
A police spokeswoman said the situation was tense as the deputies arrived at Ciutadella park in central Barcelona. Regional President Artur Mas was among at least 10 politicians who arrived by helicopter.
Scuffles broke out as police pushed protesters back so the deputies who arrived on foot could get in.
The politicians were heckled and at least two were sprayed with paint, the spokeswoman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with police rules.
The spokeswoman said there were no immediate reports of injuries but Spanish daily El Pais cited unnamed medical sources saying 23 people were treated for injuries.
Some 400 police packed the Ciutadella park to ensure protesters could not enter by climbing over the railings. Outside, a riot police vans stood guard at the main park entrance.
“I think it is important to be here protesting against the spending cuts, because to cut social spending with the excuse of the crisis is a big farce,” said protester Mariela Pita.
After the politicians entered the parliament, hundreds of protestor left the area but were expected to return later in the day for when the politicians leave the building.
The demonstration was part of nationwide protests over the past month by young and unemployed people angry at the country’s handling of the economic crisis. The highlight of the movement was a near month-long, round-the-clock makeshift protest camp in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol plaza.
The vast majority of the protests have been peaceful.
The Barcelona protest was criticized by politicians across the country.
“Aggressions and insults against politicians are aggressions and insults against the people’s representatives,” said Ramon Jauregui, spokesman for the Spanish central government.
“I can accept the protest by 2,000 people but I would remind those 2,000 people that 3.2 million people voted those deputies that were hassled,” he said.
But Gaspar Llamazares of the United Left coalition said the protests represented a “social fracture” in Spain, where the economic crisis has left close to 5 million people unemployed.
Last week hundreds of protesters gathered outside the national parliament in Madrid to demonstrate against labor reforms.
Associated Press Writer Ciaran Giles contributed to this report from Madrid