Thousands took to the streets of Barcelona to protest the arrest of five pro-independence leaders and the decision to issue arrest warrants for several others Friday. Protesters clashed with police and other state forces, who violently crackdown on the demonstrators, in a bid to prevent them from reaching the Spanish government office headquarters after Spain's Supreme Court ruled twenty-five Catalan leaders will be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobeying the state.
Jordi Turull, the latest candidate for regional president and former advisor to former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, is among those detained after being charged with rebellion, which punishable with up to 30 years in prison.
Catalonia’s former development minister Josep Rull, former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, former foreign affairs chief Raul Romeva, and former labor minister Dolors Bassa are all under pre-trial detention after they were were considered to be "flight risk" by the court.
Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena has also issued an arrest warrant for the leader of the Republican Party member Marta Rovira, who published a letter saying she had to take “the path of exile” fearing she would be imprisoned for her political work.
Many believe these and other arrests and arrest warrants, which have also been issued for former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras along with activists and artists who are against a monarchic rule, are politically motivated. The Spanish crown was re-established by former fascist dictator Francisco Franco (1936-1975) who led a military coup against the democratic government of the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1939).
Catalonia, which remained loyal to the Republican government, suffered greatly during the Spanish civil war. After the fascist forces led by Franco defeated them, their language was banned, and they lost their political rights. Many Catalans continue to uphold republican ideals and oppose the monarchic system of government.
History is very present among Catalans. One social media user said Saturday via Twitter: "You know what happens when you arrive to democracy without judging or condemning Franco's rule? It reemerges when it wants."
Puigdemont, who is currently in Finland called Spain “undemocratic” and an “embarrassment” for Europe. Judge Llarenas has reactivated arrest warrants for him and six other pro-independence leaders who are currently in exile. The Finnish government received a warrant for his Puigdemont arrest sent by Spain, but the Nordic country has requested more information before taking action.
On Friday, as Catalans flooded the streets to condemn the actions by the Spanish government confrontations with police broke out. Videos showing police officers beating unarmed demonstrators have circulated through social media. According to local press reports, more than ten people were treated for minor injuries.