Catalan protests go into day six

OVIEDO, Spain

What began as a massive pacific protest and general strike on Friday descended into chaos for the fifth night in a row as hundreds of rioters lit fires across the city centers and clashed with police. The protests continue.

On Saturday, there is heavy police presence around railways and the airport. The AP-7 highway on the French border has been cut. Large protests have been called for Saturday evening again.

The Catalan police reported that 54 people were arrested overnight. Catalan daily La Vanguardia says there were at least 89 people injured.

Group of protesters set fires, confronts police amid mobilizations against condemnation of nine independence leaders ( Adria Puig – AA )

On Friday evening, there was a massive march in Barcelona protesting the Supreme Court sentencing of Catalan independence leaders. Around 525,000 people attended, according to Barcelona authorities.

From there, the Catalan police reported that a group of 4,500 moved to a different square, 500 of them appearing violent, and then the city went up in flames again.

Protestors built bonfires fueled by material like garbage containers and police barricades across the city. Hundreds of police and firefighters tried to control the fires throughout the night. Police launched teargas and rubber bullets at the protestors and used a water cannon for the first time since the protests broke out on Monday.

“Barcelona doesn’t deserve this. Barcelona belongs to everyone and we must take care of it,” Barcelona’s left-wing mayor Ada Colau told media on Saturday.

While independence leaders have condemned any violence, they have encouraged peaceful protests. Quim Torra, the President of Catalonia, vowed this week that he would hold another (illegal) referendum within his term.

Catalonia is one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions and has a population of around 7.6 million people. It is one of Spain’s wealthiest areas and has a separate language.

Serious calls for independence began in 2012 after the Spanish Constitutional Court rejected several articles from a special statute of autonomy for the region. The movement reached a boiling point in 2017 when the pro-independence leaders held an illegal referendum on independence and subsequently declared independence in the regional parliament.

In response, the Spanish government arrested high-profile Catalan leaders, while others, such as former president Carles Puigdemont managed to flee the country. Nine leaders that were captured by Spanish police in 2017 were sentenced to between 13 and nine years in prison for their roles in the independence attempt by the Supreme Court on Monday.

Since the ruling, protestors have taken to the streets. Some groups have said they will stay out until at least November 10, the date that Spain holds national elections.
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