Thousands of supporters of the May 15th Movement mobilized on Thursday in this capital and other Spanish cities to garner the 1 million signatures needed to submit a bill to Parliament creating a mechanism for genuine citizens' participation in government.

Though the biggest protest was in Madrid's emblematic Puerta del Sol square, similar events took place in Barcelona, Castellon, Valencia, Murcia, Oviedo, Merida and other cities big and small.

The self-styled May 15th Movement emerged last Sunday to demand "real democracy now" and new economic policies against the backdrop of more-than-21-percent unemployment.

Thursday's rallies brought more criticism of the political class and of the austerity policies the Spanish government has adopted to tame its budget deficit.

The movement, which operates largely through Internet social networks, has inspired plans for solidarity demonstrations in other international capitals, including Berlin, Bogota, Buenos Aires, London, Paris and Rome.

With Spaniards set to vote Sunday in regional and municipal elections, the Madrid electoral board issued a ruling denying authorization for protests in the days prior to the balloting.

Movement supporters in the capital responded to the order Wednesday night by packing the Puerta del Sol.

The thousands who thronged the square chanted: "They will not pass," words famously uttered by Communist firebrand Dolores "La Pasionaria" Ibarruri when Gen. Francisco Franco's troops besieged Madrid during the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War.

Thursday, the activists in the Puerta del Sol called for residents of every neighborhood in Madrid to hold their own meetings to debate initiatives.

May 15th Movement partisans in Barcelona, Spain's second city, told Efe Thursday that they plan to continue their round-the-clock protests regardless of any decisions by electoral authorities.

The effects of the global recession and the bursting of a decade-long property bubble have been particularly severe for Spain's young people, who suffer a jobless rate of more than 40 percent.

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