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News > Spain

Riot Police Charges Catalan Protesters in Barcelona

  • Catalan demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest after a verdict in a trial over a banned independence referendum in Barcelona, Spain, October 15, 2019

    Catalan demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest after a verdict in a trial over a banned independence referendum in Barcelona, Spain, October 15, 2019 | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 October 2019

Three people were detained, a police spokesman said. Catalan police warned people on Twitter not to approach the epicenter of protests.

Spanish riot police clashed with Catalan protesters late Tuesday in Barcelona, in a second day of protests against the jailing of nine Catalan pro-independence activists by the Supreme Court over their role in a failed bid to break away from Spain in 2017.

Catalonia: Guilty Verdict of Leaders Will Fuel Independence Bid

In unusually tense clashes, protesters threw cans, stones and flares at riot police, and set garbage containers and cardboard on fire in the middle of several central Barcelona streets, including one that houses designer stores and the local stock exchange, according to witnesses.

Fences were on fire next to La Pedrera, one of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi's most famous buildings and one of the city's main tourist attractions. A spokesman for the regional Mossos police saying they were evacuating the area around the local headquarters of the Spanish government.

Reuters reporters saw police fire foam projectiles at the protesters. They also witnessed Spanish national police firing blanks in the air from rubber bullet guns. Police could not immediately be reached for comment.

Security forces also charged protesters in the cities of Girona and Tarragona, TV footage showed. 

Thousands of demonstrators had taken to the streets of the regional capital earlier in the evening. Some lit candles and chanted "Freedom for political prisoners."

Pro-independence leaders have vowed to keep pushing for a new referendum on secession, saying Monday's prison sentences strengthened the movement.

Oriol Junqueras, who was given the longest sentence of 13 years for his role in organizing the 2017 referendum which was ruled illegal, told Reuters in his first interview after the sentence that it would only galvanize the independence movement.

"We're not going to stop thinking what we think, ideals can't be derailed by (jail) sentences," he said, adding that a new plebiscite was "inevitable."

Demonstrators had blocked railways on Monday and thousands descended on Barcelona's international airport, where some clashed with police. An airport spokesman said 110 flights were canceled on Monday and a 45 more were canceled the next day.

Two years after the debacle of the first plebiscite, Catalonia's independence drive still dominates much of Spain's fractured political debate, and will likely color a national election on Nov. 10, Spain's fourth in as many years.

Spain's main parties have consistently refused to hold an independence referendum in Catalonia, although the acting Socialist government says it is open to dialogue on other issues.

Diana Riba, wife of convicted leader Raul Romeva, told Reuters the independence drive would prevail over time.

"This is a very long process, but we will see results as we did with the feminist movement, how they grew until becoming massive and achieving the rights that they were seeking," she said, calling for "everyone to take to the streets."

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