BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — About 2,000 demonstrators angry about planned budget cuts in education and health clashed with police outside a regional parliament in Spain on Wednesday. There were reports of 36 injuries.
Some politicians could only reach Catalonia's parliament using police helicopters. Scuffles broke out when police pushed back protesters so other lawmakers arriving on foot could get in.
The politicians were heckled and at least two were sprayed with paint, a police spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity in keeping with rules.
Spain's state-run radio reported 36 injuries, including 12 police officers. Police declined to comment on whether there were any injuries.
Regional President Artur Mas was among some 25 politicians who arrived by helicopter. About 400 police packed the Ciutadella park in central Barcelona to ensure protesters could not enter by climbing over the railings. Outside, 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," protester Mariela Pita said.
After the politicians entered the parliament, hundreds of protesters left the area but many remained. Organizers said the protest would be peaceful.
Mas warned that police may have to resort to "a legitimate use of force" and called on the public to be understanding.
"Coercion and violence to stop the normal functioning of parliament that represents the Catalan people is not admissible," Mas said. "These red lines cannot be crossed."
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 monthlong, round-the-clock makeshift protest camp in Madrid's Puerta del Sol plaza.
The vast majority of the protests have been peaceful although 100 people were injured in Barcelona when riot police charged protesters in a main city square May 27.
Wednesday's 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.
Ciaran Giles contributed to this report from Madrid.