October 18, 2019
BARCELONA: Catalan separatists were back out on the streets again on Thursday, with students rallying as they kicked-off a two-day strike and thousands more pressing on with a long cross-country march towards Barcelona.
Around 25,000 striking students and their supporters took part in a midday rally outside of Barcelona city hall, according to municipal police.
Activists blocked several roads across Catalonia by burning tyres while the commuter rail service in Barcelona was intermittently disrupted due to demonstrators on the tracks, officials said. Several roads and highways were also blocked off due to the mass marches which departed on Wednesday from five Catalan towns heading for Barcelona.
Their aim is to converge on the Catalan capital on Friday when separatists have called a general strike and a big demonstration to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to jail nine separatist leaders for their role in a referendum banned by Madrid and a short-lived declaration of independence.
Another protest has been called for Thursday evening by the radical CDR group. Announced on Monday morning, the verdict has sparked three days of large-scale demonstrations which have turned increasingly violent with separatist activists engaged in nighttime clashes with riot police in Barcelona and elsewhere.
Overnight, protesters in Barcelona set fire to cars and large wheelie bins, overturned metal barriers and threw firecrackers at police, who pushed back with batons and shields. Emergency services said 58 people were injured, including a 17-year-old who was hit by a police van.
Police have arrested 97 people across Catalonia since the protests began, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said on Thursday. “We are experiencing episodes of great violence in Catalonia carried out by minority groups which are perfectly organised,” he said.
With further protests planned for Thursday night, the minister vowed there would be “no impunity” for those involved in violence.