Several hundred Spaniards angry about their country's economic crisis protested on the outskirts of Madrid Saturday after spending about a month marching to the capital from their hometowns.
The marchers set off from Barcelona and Bilbao in the north, Valencia in the east and Cadiz in the southwest on June 25. En route, they were joined by other people angry about Spain's economic woes, including high unemployment, and what they see as their government's inept handling of the crisis.
Five columns of marchers are due to converge on downtown Sol square, adjacent to Madrid's town hall, for a large rally on Sunday.
"Every morning we were up early at 6 a.m. to respect the march's starting time," said Abdel Latif, 67, who described himself as an illegal immigrant from Tunisia.
Several dozen demonstrators stopped outside Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's official residence just north of Madrid to wave banners and chant slogans.
Another group halted traffic on a highway entering Madrid from the north.
On May 15, many young demonstrators began camping out at Sol, one of Madrid's busiest squares, in a protest that lasted three weeks and struck a chord with sympathizers across Spain and elsewhere in Europe where similar camps were set up.
Two years of recession have left Spain with 21 percent unemployment _ the highest in the 17-nation eurozone _ and burdened with debt. Joblessness for those aged 16 to 29 stands at about 35 percent.
During the marches to Madrid, physiotherapists traveling in support vehicles helped the protesters keep their leg muscles in shape, while sympathetic paramedics treated blistered feet, said participant Beatriz Puerta, 24.
"Many volunteers offered to act as cooks for us, preparing marvelous dishes which enabled us to keep up our strength. It's been a very positive experience," said Puerta, who hails from the northern port city of Bilbao.
Puerta said many of the young unemployed people who have marched on Madrid plan to continue on to Brussels.
"We want to arrive there in early October, to keep our cause in the public eye," she said.