350,000 Protest in Barcelona against Spain’s Jailing of Catalan Separatist Leaders
Another “direct action group” rally in the city turned violent.
Some 350,000 people protested on Saturday in Barcelona against the decision of the Spanish courts to serve hefty prison sentences to several separatist leaders from its region Catalonia.
The mass rally in the Catalan capital was a peaceful march, while another demonstration organized in the city by a direct action group was marred by street violence.
Last week saw violent protests in Catalonia Spain’s Supreme Court gave prison sentences ranging from 9 to 13 in years to 9 Catalan leaders, who were arrested last month, over their involvement in the attempt to declare the independence of the autonomous region back in 2017.
Back then, an independence vote declared illegal in advance by the Spanish authorities reached a turnout of over 43% (with 2.2 million votes cast), of which 92% voted in favor of independence.
Catalonia’s President Quim Torra has recently called for holding a new referendum and potentially achieving full independence by the end of 2021
The massive peaceful protest rally in Barcelona on Saturday stretched from the city’s waterfront to the landmark Sagrada Familia church, BBC News reported.
Earlier on Saturday, mayors of a total of 814 of Catalonia’s 947 local authorities met with the region’s President Quim Torra with chants of “independence”.
“[We must] force the Spanish state to talk,” Torra said, insisting that the Catalans must be united in order to oppose “repression”.
A pro-independence group’s rally before the police headquarters in Barcelona later on Saturday saw protesters throw stones and bottles at the riot police, leading to clashes and the crowd’s dispersal.
Spanish unionists are going to hold their own rally in Barcelona on Sunday, with politicians from Spain’s two main center-right parties, the Popular Party and Ciudadanos, expected to attend.
Spain’s fourth general election in four years is scheduled to be held in two weeks.
Meanwhile, supporters of the far-right Vox party rallied in the Spanish capital Madrid on Saturday against the seperatist movement in Catalonia.
“Faced with criminal separatism, there is only Vox!” declared party leader Santiago Abascal.
One recent public opinion survey showed that 44% of Catalonia’s residents favor independence while 48% oppose it.
Catalonia has a population of 7.5 million people, almost as much as Switzerland, and is roughly the size of Belgium in terms of territory. It accounts for nearly 20% of Spain’s GDP.
(Banner image: Quim Torra on Twitter)