Spanish coal miners marched on Madrid with their helmet lamps shining in the dark on Tuesday night in a demonstration against cuts to pit subsidies that they say will destroy thousands of jobs.
In their hard hats and blue overalls, some 400 miners marched down the broad avenues of the capital in an eye-catching march, the latest in weeks of protests that have erupted into violent clashes with police in the north.
Having hiked hundreds of miles from the northern mining regions, they also planned a bigger demonstration Wednesday morning, which unions hoped would draw at least 25,000 people.
The miners are protesting Madrid's decision to slash coal industry subsidies this year to 111 million euros ($142 million) from 301 million euros last year, which they say threatens 30,000 jobs directly and indirectly.
They passed in front of the official residence of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, figurehead of the economic cuts, yelling: "We are miners, not terrorists!" and "Here are the ones who get the coal out!"
They later headed for the central Puerta del Sol square, the symbolic hub of social protests, accompanied by thousands of local sympathisers.
Unions say the cuts will destroy coal mining, which relies on state aid to compete with cheaper imports.
"The fight is for something just, we are just coming to claim what is ours," said Manuel Cinoceda, a 55-year-old miner from Teruel who took early retirement, as his group entered Madrid earlier Tuesday.
He was one of 60 miners who marched from the region of Aragon and entered from the northeast into the capital where they joined with another column from two other northern mining regions: Asturias and Castile and Leon.
Weary from the hike, some of the Aragon protesters wore red scarves and black T-shirts reading "They want to end it all" or "No to the closure of coal mining," as some passers-by shouted "Courage" and "Strength to you."
Their progress through Madrid's streets after a two-week journey on foot of more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) was hailed by car drivers beeping their horns and some fire engines sounding their sirens.
"Except for a few towns, we have been very warmly welcomed almost everywhere," said Antonio Risco, 52, who joined the Aragon marchers after leaving the Cordoban mining region of Guadiato de Penarroya.
"We have to make this government realise that the mining regions have to survive and coal, too, because it is a native energy, which comes from the country and is cheap," said Risco, who retired after 22 years' work.
Spanish coal's state subsidies are due to be eliminated by 2018 under European Union agreements.
Spain's mines have been gradually closing over the past 20 years. Only around 40 are still active, mostly in the north, and they employ about 8,000 miners as well as sustaining other jobs indirectly.
Many towns rely on them, said Francisco Martin, a 35-year-old miner from the northern town of Arino.
"If they close this, there is nothing. They have had many years to re-industrialise but they have done nothing. If they close the mine, they throw us out and where are we going to go if there is nothing?"
The miners' protests in the north, with miners firing rockets and police responding with rubber bullets, have been the most volatile in months of demonstrations in various sectors across Spain, against the cuts aimed at curbing the deficit.
"We'll see if the effort we have made bears a reward," said Felix Lopez, 46, a miner from Aragon. "I don't think it's certain."