Several hundred thousand Portuguese marched in Lisbon and 10 other cities on Saturday in protest rallies, their numbers boosted by new austerity measures announced by the government a day earlier.
In the capital, an estimated 200,000 protesters carrying banners with slogans urging a policy change to reverse surging unemployment, precarious working conditions for young people and falling living standards crammed the wide Liberdade Avenue and the Rossio Square leading towards the Tagus.
"The announcement of more austerity yesterday is just complete shamelessness. This rally is the start of a wave of protests," said Joana Manuel, 34, a subcontracted university teacher who is set to lose her job at the end of the year. The government announced a series of extra spending cuts and tax changes on Friday aimed at bringing its budget deficit down to 4.6 percent in 2011. The steps are designed to convince markets that Portugal can solve its problems without needing an international bailout like those extended to Greece and Ireland.
"Crisis is their pretext!" read one slogan carried by protesters. "No country for young men" - said another as protesters chanted: "Fat politicians, skinny people!".
"This is a spontaneous movement against precariousness. This is a very important day that mobilises the whole country," said Eva Santos, a 28-year-old student.
The peaceful rallies were organised by a group of Internet users calling themselves "Precarious Generation" mainly via social networking websites. In their blog they say they have no links to any political party.
"We protest so that those responsible for our uncertain situation -- politicians, employers, and ourselves -- act together towards a rapid change in this reality that has become unsustainable," the organisers' manifesto said
"We stand here today because we can no longer accept the situation that we have been dragged into," the document said. Police declined to provide estimates for the number of protesters, but organisers and local media said at least 200,000 people took to the streets of Lisbon, some 80,000 in Porto and thousands in other cities across the Iberian country.