By Guy Smallman in Barcelona
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Eyewitness from mass protests and police repression in Catalonia

This article is over 4 years, 5 months old
Issue 2678
In just a week there were over 2,500 arrests and 570 protesters were hospitalised.
In just a week there were over 2,500 arrests and 570 protesters were hospitalised. (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Angry protests swept Catalonia last weekend over harsh jail sentences handed down to activists who called the 2017 independence referendum. Over 350,000 people marched last Saturday.

The police have responded with repression. In just a week there were over 2,500 arrests and 570 protesters were hospitalised.

Police have fired rubber and foam bullets at people at close range, causing over 200 serious injuries. Four protesters have lost an eye.

The town hall in the city of Girona was occupied last Friday. The protest was over the local council cancelling a popular fiesta celebration at the behest of the police. Cops are fearful of large crowds gathering for any reason.

On the same day a student-led protest attracted thousands of people who marched on the Catalan parliament buildings.

They demanded an end to repression and cooperation with the legal machinery of the Spanish state. Saturday saw the official response to the sentences and repression.

The 350,000-strong protest was the biggest demonstration for many years. In the evening activists gathered outside the police headquarters where, in a symbolic act, they intended to return plastic bullets collected from the streets.

Organisers were stunned to see over 10,000 people show up. The protest blocked the main road and closed access to the building.

A convoy of national police in vans became stranded in the crowd and had to be rescued by local Catalan police in riot gear.

Sunday saw a protest by supporters of the Spanish state in Barcelona, some came from outside of Catalonia. The protest was less than a third of the size of a similar event staged by the Spanish government two years ago.


But it still numbered around 80,000 people and attracted some very reactionary political elements.

Many people attended from the far right Vox party along with more mainstream centre right politicians.

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Prominent members of the Labour-type Socialist Party also joined the anti-independence march.

Large numbers of police protected the right wingers, some of whom were waving the Francisco Franco-era Spanish flag.

They were drowned out by loud chants of, “Catalonia is anti-fascist!”

Independence demonstrations have become a focus for many other grievances with solidarity protests happening in Madrid, Bilbao, Granada and Seville. Young people in particular have been hit by brutal austerity.

The banner leading the student protest on Friday read, “If you steal our future, you will find us on the streets.”

Daily protests continue and disruption is widely anticipated for the Spanish government elections, set for 10 November.


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