Barcelona protests rage for 3rd day over jail sentences for Spain’s Catalan separatists
Rioting raged in Barcelona and throughout the Catalan region for a third straight night Wednesday, as police fought street battles with protesters who are angered by lengthy prison sentences for nine leaders of the wealthy region’s drive for independence from Spain. The president of the Catalan region, Quim Torra, called for a halt in the violence, BBC News reports.
“We condemn violence,” Quim Torra said. “There is no reason nor justification for burning cars, nor any other vandalism.”Torra, who advocates independence for Catalonia, was speaking after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez made a direct appeal to him to condemn the violence, according to BBC News.
In Barcelona, tens of thousands of protesters faced off against police. Some set up flaming barricades in the streets, torching cars and trash cans. They chanted, “The streets will always be ours!”Catalan police said protesters threw gasoline bombs, stones, bottles and firecrackers at them.The violence erupted in Catalonia after Spain’s Supreme Court on Monday sentenced nine separatist Catalan leaders to up to 13 years in prison for their part in an October 2017 effort to declare independence for the region.After a surge in separatist sentiment since the global economic crisis hit Spain, around half of Catalonia’s 7.5 million residents want to break away from Spain and forge a new European country. The issue has divided families and friends, but demonstrations had largely been peaceful until this week.Outnumbered police used riot helmets, vests and shields for protection. They fired foam bullets and swung batons to keep away the swarming radicals, most of whom covered their faces. Police also drove armored vans at high speeds to scatter the crowds — but when police succeeded in dispersing one hot spot, another erupted.One police helicopter was hit by five “pyrotechnic” objects similar to fireworks, according to the regional police force. The rare passers-by or tourists caught in the middle of the melees scurried to safety. Some residents tossed water from balconies down on burning trash bins and debris while firefighters tried to keep up with the emergencies.Central Barcelona, a leading tourist destination known for its beautiful architecture and relaxed atmosphere, became a no-go territory.