Fresh protests in Spain's Catalonia after third night of violence

A protest in Barcelona yesterday. Violence in Catalonia erupted on Monday, after Spain's Supreme Court handed down long prison terms to nine Catalan leaders for their role in the failed independence bid in 2017.
A protest in Barcelona yesterday. Violence in Catalonia erupted on Monday, after Spain's Supreme Court handed down long prison terms to nine Catalan leaders for their role in the failed independence bid in 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA • After a fresh night of violence that rocked Barcelona, Catalan separatists yesterday pressed on with their protests against the sentencing of nine of their leaders by blocking roads and railways across the Spanish region.

University students began a strike, while several roads and highways were closed because of mass marches which departed on Wednesday from five Catalan towns heading for Barcelona.

The marchers plan to converge in Barcelona today when unions have called a general strike in the region, and a massive protest is planned in the evening.

State rail company Adif said a train linking Barcelona to Lerida suffered a delay of half an hour blamed on "sabotage", while the commuter rail service in the Catalan capital was temporarily stopped on three routes early yesterday because demonstrators had gathered on the tracks.

Cleaning crews yesterday morning cleared the streets of central Barcelona of debris left over from overnight clashes between protesters and riot police which left 58 people injured, including a 17-year-old who was hit by a police van, according to emergency services.

The demonstrators, many of them masked, torched cars and garbage bins and hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police.

Another 38 people were injured in protests in other Catalan cities, including Lerida and Girona, a separatist stronghold.

The violence erupted on Monday, just hours after Spain's Supreme Court handed down long prison sentences to nine Catalan leaders for their role in the failed independence bid in 2017.

NO REASON FOR VANDALISM

This has to stop right now. There is no reason or justification for burning cars, nor any other vandalism. Protest should be peaceful.

CATALAN PRESIDENT QUIM TORRA, in an overnight about-turn. He had not commented on the unrest for days, and had sanctioned and even encouraged civil disobedience before.

The violent protests marked a break with the mainly peaceful and festive pro-independence rallies held in Catalonia since the separatist movement gained momentum nearly a decade ago.

While Catalan President Quim Torra has sanctioned and even encouraged civil disobedience, his government is also responsible for the regional police charged with controlling protests, putting him in an uncomfortable position.

Mr Torra had not commented on the unrest for days, but overnight he called for an immediate halt to the violent clashes.

"This has to stop right now," he said. "There is no reason or justification for burning cars, nor any other vandalism. Protest should be peaceful."

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialist government, which sent police reinforcements to Catalonia ahead of the court ruling, has so far shown little appetite for taking matters into its own hands despite pressure from the conservative opposition to do so.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2019, with the headline 'Fresh protests in Spain's Catalonia after third night of violence'. Print Edition | Subscribe