Barcelona protests: Hundreds of thousands to join rally after Catalan separatist leaders jailed

Major roads blocked off across Catalonia and main streets in Barcelona closed to traffic in anticipation of marches

Corazon Miller
Friday 18 October 2019 12:27 BST
Students wave a Catalan pro-independence flag as they protest during a demonstration in front of the police headquarters in Barcelona
Students wave a Catalan pro-independence flag as they protest during a demonstration in front of the police headquarters in Barcelona (AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of pro-independence supporters from Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia are pouring into Barcelona for what will be the fifth day of protests.

Local unions have also called for a general strike on Friday and thousands from around the region took part in the cross-country march arriving in the Catalan capital today.

Many can be seen waving pro-independence flags and carrying signs and banners as they march towards Barcelona.

The recent unrest in the capital of the Catalan region was sparked by the Spanish Supreme Court’s decision on Monday to jail nine separatist leaders for their role in a failed 2017 independence referendum.

The decision quickly set off protests across the region and while many of the demonstrators engaged in peaceful action, a number have escalated tensions by setting fire on bins and cars and clashing with police forces.

Major roads were blocked off across Catalonia on Friday and several main streets in Barcelona were closed to traffic in anticipation of the marches, as well as picket lines that had begun springing up, while regional trains and the city's metro were running on a reduced timetable.

It is just the latest disruption in the city which has struggled with business as usual as the protests mar the typically peaceful tourist destination.

Barcelona's El Prat airport, forced to cancel around 150 flights this week after it was barricaded by thousands of people, was running normally for the most part, according to Spain's ministry of public works.

Around 36 flights operated by Vueling were cancelled on Friday due to the strike, the Spanish low-cost airline owned by IAG said on Twitter.

Barcelona town hall said 400 refuge containers were set ablaze during protests on Wednesday and estimated the city had suffered damage totalling more £860,000.

Thursday began with largely peaceful protests as young people draped in Catalan flags tossed balls and skipped rope.

The mood shifted later in the night, with protesters setting fire to cafe chairs lining the fashionable Rambla de Catalunya street in the heart of Barcelona's tourist district.

Regional police said 16 people were arrested across Catalonia, while health officials said medical aid was provided to 42 people.

Car manufacturer Seat said it had halted production at its plant in Martorell, near Barcelona, from Thursday afternoon until Saturday, over concerns that the marches would disrupt traffic, a company spokeswoman said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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