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Montevideo, November 18th 2017 - 06:32 UTC

Catalonia pro independence demonstrators fill streets of Barcelona wrapped in the “estelada” flag

Friday, September 22nd 2017 - 09:29 UTC
Full article 5 comments
Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras acknowledged that the crackdown had disrupted the referendum plans. Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras acknowledged that the crackdown had disrupted the referendum plans.
By midday, the protesting crowds filled a square the size of two soccer fields and erupted in slogans chanting “We will vote!” and “Hello democracy”. By midday, the protesting crowds filled a square the size of two soccer fields and erupted in slogans chanting “We will vote!” and “Hello democracy”.
Many demonstrators wrapped themselves in the “estelada” flag, which has become a symbol of those in favor of an independent Catalan republic Many demonstrators wrapped themselves in the “estelada” flag, which has become a symbol of those in favor of an independent Catalan republic

Thousands gathered on Thursday to demand the release of a dozen Catalan officials arrested in connection with a vote on independence that Spanish authorities are challenging as illegal. The demonstrators, who met at the gates of Catalonia’s judicial body in Barcelona, answered a call by pro-independence civic groups to stage long-term street protests against the police surprise crackdown one day earlier.

 Acting on a judge’s orders, police seized 10 million ballot papers and arrested at least 12 people, mostly Catalan government officials, suspected of coordinating the referendum. The arrests were the first involving Catalan officials since the campaign to hold an independence vote began in earnest in 2011.

Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras acknowledged that the crackdown had disrupted the referendum plans. “It’s evident that we won’t be able to vote like we have done in the past,” Mr Junqueras told broadcaster TV3.

Even so, he remained confident there will be a large turnout of Catalans on October 1, whatever form the vote takes. Pro-independence leaders have insisted the ballot will go ahead despite the obstacles.

The Catalan National Assembly, a driving force behind the secession movement, urged people to gather at noon outside the region’s justice tribunal and bring tents if needed.

By midday, the protesting crowds filled a square the size of two soccer fields and erupted in slogans chanting “We will vote!” and “Hello democracy”.

Many wrapped themselves in the “estelada” flag, which has become a symbol of those in favor of an independent Catalan republic, and some climbed lampposts to get a better view.

“We will be here, peacefully but present, until all of the arrested walk out free,” the Assembly’s president Jordi Sanchez told the cheering crowds.

The regional police force cordoned off the area, and live video streaming from the ground showed people angrily whistling and jeering at a police officer who became entangled with a protester.

There were no immediate reports of other major incidents, but the atmosphere was a mixture of the festive and the tense.

The protesters’ response had begun on Wednesday as news of the police raids on Catalan government offices and the arrests spread through social media. Some people camped out overnight at the gates of the regional department of economy, where civil guard investigators conducted a search and arrested two officials in charge of finances and taxation.

Various vehicles belonging to the Civil Guard force were vandalized and the officers had to be escorted away in the early hours of Thursday by regional police amid some scuffles.

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain’s 1.1-trillion-euro economy and enjoys wide self-government, although key areas such as infrastructure and taxes are in the hands of central authorities. The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters.

Polls consistently show the region’s inhabitants favor holding a referendum but are roughly evenly divided over independence from Spain.

Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • Conqueror

    This is just one demonstration of the old imperialist attitudes in Europe. Another is the facade of democracy overlying the new Franco-German empire. It won't last. The French, despite their claims to “liberty, equality, fraternity” are basically weak and indolent. Might the Visegrad grouping herald a new Hungarian empire?

    It is slightly incredible that a group that titles itself the “Popular Party” descends to levels of action reminiscent of the Gestapo and the SS. As I recall, the matter of “Scottish independence” was dealt with, temporarily at least, in a civilised and mature fashion. No-one was arrested or imprisoned for simply enabling a vote. Demonstrating how the greater part of the UK is different to Europe. Spain should learn.

    I'm sure we can now see a reasonable justification for new and more capable destroyers, submarines, aircraft carriers, frigates and military aircraft. In a recent comment, a senior UK military officer remarked that UK forces are quite capable of crippling Spain. Obviously a warning of the likely response if Spain attempts to impose itself on Gibraltar. Theresa May might not wish, currently, to threaten a European “partner” and a supposed NATO “ally”. However, it's hard to recall the last time that the Spanish engaged in an armed conflict. Spain is no more than a European argentina. All mouth.

    Catalans are quite clearly different. One has only to look at history to see that. Its possible desire for independence should be respected. Spain could usefully recall the provisions regarding self-determination in the UN Charter that it signed. But then Spain has never respected anything that it didn't see as being in its interest unless someone with a big stick was standing behind it. Witness the fact that, just like argentina, it refuses to take its territorial claims to the ICJ. And the political puppet that is the ECJ appointed a Spanish judge in a dispute where any honest body would see a basic conflict of interest.

    Sep 22nd, 2017 - 03:44 pm +3
  • Terence

    Which all goes to show Spain is a sham democracy, only pretended to be one to get into the EU....can anyone imagine how they would 'punish' the people of Gibraltar if they ever got their brutal hands on it?

    Sep 22nd, 2017 - 09:42 am +2
  • Marti Llazo

    Without the Països Catalans, the economic powerhouse for Spain, the country would go bankrupt rather quickly.

    Sep 22nd, 2017 - 04:08 pm +2
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