Hundreds of groups, including members of Spain’s M-15 movement, took part in the demonstrations across the city center on Wednesday, AFP reported.

“We criticize this scandalous show at a time of such a terribly distressing economic situation, with entire families unemployed,” said protester Evaristo Villar of Christian Networks (Redes Cristianos).

The official cost of the visit, excluding the price of upholding security, has been estimated at around EUR 50.5 million, but many of the protesters say the real cost to taxpayers will be well over EUR 100 million.

The demonstrators shouted several slogans including, “The pope’s visit, not with my tax money!”

Dozens of riot police were deployed to prevent any clashes between demonstrators and Catholic groups. Only minor incidents were reported.

“I was at the protest with my father, and one of the Catholics punched me in the face,” an 18 year-old protester said who were bleeding from the nose.

Pope Benedict is expected to arrive on Thursday. The visit comes at a time when Spain is struggling to get out of the recession that has crippled the country’s economy.

The current unemployment rate stands 20.89 percent. However, the youth unemployment rate is over 45 percent.

Spain’s M-15 movement was born on May 15 to protest the government’s bad management of the economy.

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