Violent clashes between radical separatist activists and law enforcement sparked scenes of chaos on Friday (October 18th) in central Barcelona after a monstrous peaceful demonstration against the condemnation of separatist leaders in Spain.
After hours of war of positions near the central police station between radicals throwing stones or metal objects and police responding by shooting rubber bullets and tear gas, the unrest then spread to the rest of the city center , noted AFP journalists.
>> To read: "'Democratic Tsunami', the dark movement mobilizing Catalan separatists"
Many fires were lit, especially in the Plaza Catalunya at the top of the famous Ramblas, and barricades erected in many streets by hundreds of masked or helmeted demonstrators, shouting "the streets will always be ours". The police also used a water cannon against them.
In this city popular with international tourists, the regional police advised in English on his Twitter account "not to approach" areas of downtown because of "violent acts and serious incidents".
Around 23:00 GMT, the situation "appeared calmer," according to a spokesman for the regional police, in the city of which emanated a strong smell of smoke.
After clashes during the blocking of the airport by more than 10,000 people on Monday, Barcelona had already experienced urban guerrilla scenes from Tuesday to Thursday, a magnitude less important than Friday night.
Born out of the frustration of part of the separatist base two years after the failed secession attempt of 2017, this violence marked a turning point for the separatist movement, which has always boasted of being non-violent.
According to a report by Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, before the violence escalates in the evening, 128 people have been arrested since the beginning of the independence mobilization on Monday while 207 police officers were injured.
In total, according to emergency services, nearly 500 people have been injured since the beginning of the week in the region including 60 Friday night in Barcelona.
More than 500,000 protesters
Before these troubles broke out, a monster demonstration had gathered 525,000 people, according to the municipal police, in a festive atmosphere, the culmination of the mobilization started Monday against the conviction by the Spanish justice of nine independentist leaders to terms of imprisonment. from nine to 13 years in prison for the secession attempt of 2017.
With the slogan "Liberty", columns of tens of thousands of separatists left Wednesday five cities in the region to reach Barcelona.
"We have been demanding for years (independence) with a lot of patience and hope that (this mobilization) will be the trigger for the situation to change," said David Blanco, a 56-year-old commercial agent.
The separatists also organized a general strike whose effects were evident in this rich region weighing one fifth of the Spanish GDP.
In Barcelona, the famous Basilica of the Sagrada Familia had to close while the Liceu opera canceled its performance on Friday. Most of the stands of the Boqueria market, very popular with tourists, and many shops were closed.
The government of Pedro Sanchez under pressure
Car manufacturer Seat shut down its Martorell plant near Barcelona, which employs over 6,500 people.
The troubles in Catalonia also resulted in the transfer by the football federation of the "Clasico" of October 26 between Barça and Real Madrid, one of the most watched meetings on the planet.
Less than a month away from the fourth general election in four years in Spain, these troubles have put the government of the Socialist Pedro Sanchez under pressure from the right that calls for exceptional measures to restore order.
From Brussels, Pedro Sanchez replied that the state could not "be led to overreaction", while assuring that there would be "no impunity for acts of vandalism".
In Catalonia, the question of independence divides the population in two. According to a survey released in July by the regional government, 44% of the population is in favor and 48.3% opposed.