Thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in this capital and other Spanish cities against austerity measures implemented by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government.

In the Spanish capital, four columns of protesters made their way from different points of the metropolis to the downtown Fountain of Neptune.

Demonstrators marched under the banner "No to the Financial Coup. We Don't Owe. We Won't Pay" - alluding to a failed putsch 32 years ago today that sought to stamp out Spain's fledgling democracy - and carried signs protesting cuts to health and education services and the privatization of government-run companies.

The marchers included miners dressed in black and wearing helmets, feminists and people protesting mortgage foreclosures and layoffs at Spanish flagship airline Iberia.

One group of protesters held up a sign "There's Not Too Little Money. They're Too Many Thieves," an allusion to alleged secret payments made to high-ranking members of the ruling Popular Party out of a slush fund.

Nearly 1,400 riot police were monitoring the protest due to concerns the marches - which were organized by the group Citizens' Tide and unfolding peacefully - could be hijacked by radical groups.

Demonstrations also were being held Saturday in more than 80 other Spanish cities and towns and also in some European cities outside Spain such as Geneva, Naples and Paris.

The Iberian nation is in recession for the second time since the 2008 global financial crisis followed hard on the heels of the collapse of a decade-long property boom.

Numerous businesses have failed amid the slump and tens of thousands of families have been evicted from their homes after falling behind on their mortgages.

Rajoy, who took office in December 2011, has responded to the crisis by opting for a series of austerity measures - including increasing the value-added tax and reducing unemployment benefits - aimed at bringing Spain's budget deficit into line with European Union mandates.

His administration argues that fulfilling the deficit objective is the first step back to economic health, but the belt-tightening measures have sparked street protests in a country where the unemployment rate stands at 26 percent and more than 55 percent among young people. EFE