Sep­a­ratist protest draws 350,000 in Barcelona

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

HONG KONG (AFP) — Po­lice fired tear gas and rub­ber bul­lets on Sun­day at pro-democ­racy protesters who de­fied au­thor­i­ties to hold a rally on Hong Kong’s scenic har­bourfront, the lat­est flash­point in months of po­lit­i­cal un­rest grip­ping the city.

Clouds of acrid smoke wafted across streets usu­ally packed with tourists, in­clud­ing out­side the land­mark colo­nial-era Penin­sula Ho­tel, as protesters and po­lice clashed in what has be­come a weekly rit­ual.

Many of the protesters wore masks, de­fy­ing a re­cent emer­gency law ban­ning face cov­er­ings. But few of those in­volved in the early clashes had pro­tec­tive hel­mets and res­pi­ra­tors used by more hard­core front­lin­ers.

Ten­sions built early on Sun­day af­ter­noon as riot po­lice flooded the har­bour­side park in Tsim Sha Tsui dis­trict where the un­sanc­tioned rally was due to take place.

Of­fi­cers stopped and searched nu­mer­ous peo­ple, spark­ing con­fronta­tions as the crowds got big­ger, many of them shout­ing “black cops” and “tri­ads” at the po­lice.

Tear gas, pep­per spray and some rub­ber bul­lets were fired in at least three dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions as clashes broke out and crowds scat­tered.

Small groups of hard­core protesters then built bar­ri­cades and blocked roads in a fa­mil­iar game of cat and mouse with po­lice.

BARCELONA (AFP) — Around 350,000 peo­ple ral­lied in down­town Barcelona on Satur­day, turn­ing the streets into a sea of in­de­pen­dence flags in the lat­est mass protest against Spain’s jail­ing of nine sep­a­ratist lead­ers.

The turnout fig­ure was given by the lo­cal po­lice as vast crowds packed into a wide av­enue run­ning be­tween the wa­ter­front and the city’s tow­er­ing Sagrada Fa­milia basil­ica, which was closed to vis­i­tors.

But as night fell, thou­sands joined a sep­a­rate demon­stra­tion called by the rad­i­cal CDR, mass­ing along Via

Laei­tana out­side po­lice head­quar­ters, whose win­dows were shut­tered and the main en­trance sealed off with plas­tic sheet­ing.

Shout­ing: “Oc­cu­pa­tion forces, out!” and “The Span­ish flag, out!” they hurled hun­dreds of mul­ti­color plas­tic balls and mar­bles at the riot po­lice guard­ing the build­ing, who did not re­spond de­spite the ris­ing ten­sion.

Cat­alo­nia has been gripped by un­rest since the Oc­to­ber 14 Supreme Court ver­dict which un­leashed a wave of protest that quickly turned vi­o­lent, with masked demon­stra­tors clash­ing nightly with riot po­lice.

More than 600 peo­ple have been in­jured in the protests, 367 of them civil­ians and 289 po­lice, of­fi­cial fig­ures show.

The cri­sis be­gan two years ago when the re­gion staged a banned ref­er­en­dum on Oc­to­ber 1 that was marred by po­lice vi­o­lence, then is­sued a short-lived dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence, trig­ging Spain’s worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in decades.

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