News ID: 260491
Published: 0220 GMT October 20, 2019

Anti-separatists rally in Barcelona after pro-independence clashes

Anti-separatists rally in Barcelona after pro-independence clashes
RAFAEL MARCHANTE/REUTERS
Ciudadanos party leaders Albert Rivera, Ines Arrimadas and Lorena Lordan attend a demonstration in support of the unity of Spain at Sant Jaume Square outside of Government of Catalonia headquarters in Barcelona, Spain, on October 20, 2019.

One of the most prominent figures against independence for the Spanish region of Catalonia staged a counter-protest on Sunday after a week of separatist unrest, and called for an end to violence.

Albert Rivera, head of the pro-unionist Ciudadanos party, told hundreds of flag-waving supporters that Spain’s acting Socialist government was not doing enough to end the chaos sparked by the jailing of separatist leaders, Reuters reported.

“People can’t take their children to school, they can’t open their businesses,” Barcelona-born Rivera said. “We need a Spanish government that protects the weak.”

Pro-independence supporters have taken to the streets of Barcelona for six days running in often violent confrontations with police that have left dozens injured and caused more than a million euros ($1.1 million) of damage to the Mediterranean city.

A policeman and a protester remained in critical condition, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau said on Sunday, adding that “several people” had been blinded in one eye by police rubber bullets.

After unprecedented violence on Friday, demonstrations on Saturday passed off relatively peacefully and the government has said it has the situation under control.

Independence is a highly divisive issue in Catalonia, which is Spain’s wealthiest region and has 7.5 million inhabitants. A poll in July showed backing for secession at its lowest level in two years, with 48.3% of people against and 44% in favor.

“There are more of us Catalan Spaniards than separatists. It’s important that people see that not everyone is in favor of independence,” said Martina Gonzalez, a 58-year-old cleaner who had a Spanish flag draped over her shoulders.

“I am Spanish, Spanish, Spanish,” the crowd chanted.

 

No dialogue

 

One of those at the rally, 54-year-old Angel Rodriguez, said he had never witnessed the sort of urban unrest that has rocked Spain’s second-largest city this week.

“These young people have been indoctrinated. They can’t explain why they want independence because they don’t know the history,” he said.

Spain’s acting Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, dismissed calls on Saturday from Catalonia’s pro-independence regional chief to hold talks aimed at defusing the crisis.

Sanchez said Catalonia President Quim Torra must first condemn the tumult unequivocally and then build bridges with the many Catalans who do not want secession.

Pro-independence leaders staged a referendum in 2017 and then declared they were breaking away from Spain. The Spanish government of the time immediately seized control of the Catalan administration and the leaders were put on trial.

The Supreme Court on Monday found nine politicians and activists guilty of sedition and sentenced them to up to 13 years in jail, triggering immediate street unrest.

The Catalan question has dominated domestic politics in recent years and was instrumental in triggering parliamentary elections in April, which gave no single party a majority.

The Socialists have called a national election next month, but a poll released on Thursday suggested parliament would remain split. The survey found that support for Ciudadanos was plunging, suggesting Rivera is fighting for political survival.

 

   
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