Separatist protest draws 350,000 in Barcelona
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.