Protests over the sentencing of Catalan politicians continue to rock Spain.
By Angel Woo.
Protests began in Catalonia on 14 October following the conviction of Catalan separatist leaders, after it was announced that the independence vote was held illegally.
Catalonia is an autonomous region in Spain which has its own culture, language, flag and anthem. The region called for independence in 2017, and held what was later deemed an illegal referendum. With a turnout of 43%, 90% of the voters voted for independence. The Spanish supreme court announced that nine Catalan politicians are sentenced from 9 to 13 years. Oriol Junqueras, the former Independence leader – and the former vice president of Catalonia – was given the longest sentence of thirteen years.
Supporters of independence see the sentencing as a form of political repression from the Spanish government. The protests began immediately after the sentencing was announced, and have not ceased.
Protesters blocked the road to Barcelona El Prat Josep Tarradellas airport to express their discontent right after the trial. On 14 October, more than 100 flights were cancelled, and the airport was in chaos. Riot police fired tear gas into crowds of protestors, and videos on Twitter seem to show the police using extreme physical force. Amnesty International said it had observed “various cases” of “excessive” use of police force, including “inappropriate and unjustified use of batons” against people “who posed no risk.”
On 26th October, 350,000 people attended a march, donning Catalan flags and shouting “freedom for political prisoners”. Some more extreme protesters held a separate demonstration, where they clashed with the police outside police headquarters.
There has also been opposition towards the independence demonstrations – for example, the Catalonian Unionists took to the streets the day after a significant independence rally, waving the Spanish flag and shouting, ‘Don’t be fooled, Catalonia is Spain’ and ‘let’s recover our common sense!’.
According to the Guardian, more than 600 people have been injured in the protests, 367 of them civilians and 289 police.
Marches of solidarity have sprung between Hong Kong, a city also marred by protests, and Catalonia. On 25 October, more than a thousand Hongkongers gathered and chanted ‘Stand with Catalonia, stand with Hong Kong’. Over 100 protesters held a rally to support Hong Kong in Barcelona on 24 October, where they sang ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ in Catalan.