Catalonia protests: Dozens injured in third night of rioting

At least 46 police among injured in protests against jailing of independence leaders

 A demonstrator waves an Estelada, the unofficial flag used by Catalan independence supporters, during protests in Girona on Wednesday night. Photograph: David Borrat/EPA

A demonstrator waves an Estelada, the unofficial flag used by Catalan independence supporters, during protests in Girona on Wednesday night. Photograph: David Borrat/EPA

 

At least 80 people, including 46 police officers, have been injured during the most violent of three nights of rioting over the imprisonment of Catalan separatist leaders, authorities in Spain said.

A statement from the office of Spain’s caretaker prime minister said 33 people have been arrested. Four protesters have been jailed so far on provisional public disorder charges.

The Spanish leader, Pedro Sánchez, is meeting experts from the interior and other ministries to analyse the security situation.

It came as Thursday began with new road blockades across the northeastern region, including a main highway leading to France.

In the Catalan parliament, regional president Quim Torra said on Thursday a new vote would have to be held to decide on self-determination for the region.

He said his aim for the region to be independent from Spain by the end of 2021 if Catalan parties agree to it. Addressing the parliament, he also said he wanted a proposal for a “Catalan republic” to be ready by the spring of next year.

Mr Torra also said there was a “false narrative” that the Catalan separatist movement was violent.

Catalan regional president Quim Torra: said his aim for the region to be independent from Spain by the end of 2021 if Catalan parties agree to it. Photograph: Quique Garcia/EPA
Catalan regional president Quim Torra: said his aim for the region to be independent from Spain by the end of 2021 if Catalan parties agree to it. Photograph: Quique Garcia/EPA

Tens of thousands of protesters faced off against police in Barcelona on Wednesday night. Some set up flaming barricades in the streets, torching cars and bins, chanting: “The streets will always be ours!”

Police said protesters threw petrol bombs, stones, bottles and fireworks at them.

Violence erupted on Monday after Spain’s supreme court 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.

On Wednesday night outnumbered police used 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 armoured vans at high speeds to scatter the crowds.

One police helicopter was hit by five “pyrotechnic” objects similar to fireworks, according to the regional police force.

Health services in Catalonia said medics attended to 52 people in the region on Wednesday. Police said late in the evening that they had arrested “at least 20 people” throughout Catalonia for violent acts.

Mr Sánchez said the clashes would not provoke him into taking drastic measures in Catalonia, despite calls by rival parties to crack down on the separatist politicians in the region.

The prime minister, who is in interim charge while awaiting national elections on November 10th, consulted other national political leaders in Madrid during the day about the trouble.

The Spanish government will respond with “firmness, calmness and unity” to the confrontations, he said in a televised address.

He blamed “organised groups of extremists” for the rioting but said he would not be drawn into playing their game of an “ascending spiral of violence”.

The protests followed the pattern of previous days as crowds gathered during the day to block roads and hold marches demanding independence. After sunset, the marches turned ugly.

Police also reported clashes in Girona, a town near the French border, and other places.

An organisation representing Barcelona businesses, called Barcelona Abierta, said the violence had caused “significant losses” and “deeply damaged” its image abroad.

Other protests are scheduled in the coming days as separatists vow no let-up in their secession drive. – Agencies