Cata­lan leader calls for im­me­di­ate halt to clashes

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

BARCELONA (AFP) — Cata­lan Pres­i­dent Quim Torra called for an im­me­di­ate halt to the vi­o­lent clashes that rocked Barcelona for a third day Wed­nes­day, warn­ing they were harm­ing the im­age of the sep­a­ratist move­ment.

As the Cata­lan cap­i­tal echoed with the sound of sirens and masked youths staged run­ning bat­tles with riot po­lice, Spain’s Pe­dro Sanchez had made a di­rect ap­peal to Torra to “clearly con­demn” the vi­o­lence.

Ear­lier on Wed­nes­day, thou­sands gath­ered for a protest called by the rad­i­cal CDR.

But as the even­ing wore on, the sit­u­a­tion quickly be­came chaotic, with hun­dreds run­ning through the streets, hurl­ing bro­ken paving stones, torch­ing cars and oc­ca­sion­ally stop­ping to take self­ies in front of the burn­ing bar­ri­cades.

“This isn’t vi­o­lence, it’s self-de­fense,” roared a group of masked young­sters in front of a blaz­ing bar­ri­cade.

Some even threw Molo­tov cock­tails, the re­gional po­lice said, with scenes of vi­o­lence also spread­ing to other cities in the re­gion such as Tar­rag­ona and Leida, prompt­ing the Cata­lan leader to give a tele­vised address shortly af­ter mid­night.

“This has to stop right now,” Torra said.

“There is no rea­son or jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for burn­ing cars, nor any other van­dal­ism. Protest should be peace­ful.

“We can­not al­low such groups who in­fil­trate and pro­voke to harm the im­age of a move­ment which counts mil­lions of Cata­lans,” he added.

Un­til now, Torra has not made any com­ment on the vi­o­lence which erupted on Mon­day just hours af­ter the Supreme Court handed down heavy prison sen­tences to nine Cata­lan lead­ers for their role in the failed in­de­pen­dence bid of 2017.

So far, Madrid has shown lit­tle ap­petite for tak­ing mat­ters into its own hands, de­spite the on­go­ing protests in Barcelona and else­where that have hit screens around the world as Cata­lan sep­a­ratists have made their anger known.

The lat­est crisis be­gan just over two years ago when Cat­alo­nia’s sep­a­ratist lead­ers held a banned ref­er­en­dum then is­sued a short-lived dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence, prompt­ing Madrid to sack its gov­ern­ment and sus­pend the re­gion’s au­ton­omy.

It also put 12 of its lead­ers on trial, nine of whom were con­demned for sedi­tion on Mon­day, and handed prison terms of be­tween nine and 13 years.

Ear­lier on Wed­nes­day, as the crowds massed in cen­tral Barcelona, many be­gan hurl­ing toi­let rolls into the air in re­sponse to a slo­gan by the move­ment say­ing there was “a lot of shit to clean up.”

“I’m just a bag of nerves,” said Jose Ra­mon Gar­cia, one el­derly lo­cal res­i­dent who had stepped out for a quiet drink and found him­self caught up in the protests.

“I was just sit­ting calmly in the bar and sud­denly the ap­peared from all di­rec­tions,” he told AFP. “And these are ‘peace­ful’ demon­stra­tors?”

Else­where an 18-year-old stu­dent with an in­de­pen­dence flag around his shoul­ders said many had sim­ply lost the will to protest peace­fully.

“It’s a re­ac­tion to what the po­lice did on Oct. 1 to shut down the ref­er­en­dum and against what the jus­tice sys­tem did on Mon­day in con­demn­ing the sep­a­ratist (lead­ers),” Ber­nat Bus­quet told AFP of the ill-fated ref­er­en­dum which was marred by vi­o­lence.

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