Will Valencia support Catalan independence
180,000 take to the streets in Barcelona for independence
Barcelona. A year after the banned independence referendum in Catalonia, around 180,000 people demonstrated in Barcelona for the region's secession from Spain. Following the rally, radical pro-independence riots broke out on Monday evening. Hundreds of activists had previously occupied the tracks of a high-speed line in Girona north of Barcelona and blocked several important roads. Regional President Quim Torra welcomed the actions as a means of "putting pressure on".
Shortly after 9 p.m., demonstrators stormed the barriers in front of the regional parliament in Barcelona. Hooded activists tried to erect barricades with rubbish bins and threw stones at the Catalan police unit Mossos d'Esquadra. Regional President Torra was booed at the rally in Barcelona. Participants accused him of not offering enough resistance to the Spanish central government.
Previously, hundreds of mainly disguised independence supporters had occupied the high-speed tracks in Girona train station, as the railway operator Renfe announced. According to TV stations, protesters also blocked key streets in Barcelona and Lleida.
Police demonstration in Barcelona: "No passaran!"
No way through for the Spanish police demonstration
According to the authorities, the A7 motorway between Barcelona and Valencia and the A2 between Barcelona and Madrid were also blocked. On the building of the regional government in Girona, activists also replaced the Spanish flag with flags of independence advocates.
The Committees for the Defense of Independence (CDR) called for the actions. "A year ago we proclaimed the republic - let's take action," said the CDR grassroots groups in the short message service Twitter.
Spain's Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, himself a Catalan, warned Torra that maintaining public order is the responsibility of the regional government. The regional president recalled the referendum a year ago in the northern Catalan town of Sant Julià de Ramis. "Everything started on October 1st and everything goes back to October 1st," he said in front of a white banner that read "No forgetting, no forgiveness."
On Monday, thousands of students on the streets of Barcelona called for the results of last year's referendum to be recognized. Already on Saturday there were clashes between Catalan activists and police officers in the Catalan capital. 24 people were injured and the police reported six arrests.
The year-long dispute over the secession of Catalonia escalated a year ago. The referendum banned by Madrid was held on October 1st despite a massive police presence; there was a yes to independence, albeit with little participation. Images of brutal police operations in front of the polling stations went around the world.
On October 27th, the Catalan parliament unilaterally proclaimed the independence of Catalonia. The Spanish central government under the then Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy then deposed the regional government. Several Catalan independence advocates were arrested, among other things, for "rebellion", the former regional president Carles Puigdemont and several of his cabinet members fled abroad.
The Social Democrats under Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez have been ruling Madrid since the beginning of June. Government spokeswoman Isabel Celáa said on the anniversary of the referendum that there was nothing to celebrate. The vote was "illegal" and therefore legally without any consequences. She called on the Catalan regional president Torra to "moderate his language". Finally, her government had "entered into dialogue with the Catalan authorities". At the same time, Celáa described the massive police operation a year ago as a mistake.
Meanwhile, the camp of independence advocates is also divided on how to proceed: more radical groups such as the CDR or the ultra-left CUP accuse Torra's regional government of being too hesitant towards Madrid. AFP / nd
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