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Barcelona rocked by violence as protesters clash with police

October 19, 2019

Masked protesters barricaded streets and set bins on fire in the heart of Barcelona and police responded with tear gas and foam bullets. The clashes came after hundreds of thousands peacefully demonstrated in the region.

Protests in Barcelona
Image: Getty Images/J. Mitchell

Hundreds of protesters faced off against police in the heart of Barcelona on Friday, assembling fiery barricades and throwing rocks at security forces on the fifth day of unrest following the sentencing of nine Catalan separatist leaders.

The general strike that brought the Catalan capital to a standstill drew over half a million people, according to police estimates, and was largely peaceful for most of the day.

Peaceful protest devolves into chaos

As night fell, several hundred people wearing black masks blocked a broad boulevard near the city's police headquarters, set garbage bins on fire, and threw stones, eggs and other objects at police forces in full riot gear.

A branch of the Banco Santander bank was also ransacked and metal barriers were set up across other streets.

Read more: Catalan protesters: 'We want to make a point'

In response, police fired tear gas, smoke grenades and foam bullets at the protesters and deployed water trucks to pass through the burning barricades.

Spanish daily El Pais reported that 17 people were arrested on Friday. Health authorities reported 62 people, 41 of them in Barcelona, were injured in protests across Catalonia. Spain's Interior Ministry said that more than 200 members of the security forces were injured in the region.

Police officers stand in front of a fire as protesters called a general strike following a week of protests
Image: Getty Images/J. Mitchell

Read more: Catalonia holds general strike as protesters descend on Barcelona

At least four other towns and cities in Catalonia saw clashes as the pro-independence anger showed no signs of slowing, officials said.

The protests also prompted the Spanish soccer federation to postpone an October 26 La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona over security concerns. Volkswagen subsidiary Seat said it had halted production at its plant near Barcelona until Saturday.

Barcelona paying the price

Tensions in Catalonia began to spiral on Monday after the Supreme Court in Madrid jailed nine separatist leaders for terms of up to 13 years for their role in the 2017 Catalan independence bid.

The sentencing triggered violent protests, with pro-independence supporters taking to the streets. Authorities in Barcelona said the city had suffered more than €1.5 million ($1.67 million) in damage due to the rioting.

Read more: Spain condemns 'generalized violence' in Catalonia

Meanwhile, Catalonia's former leader, Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after the independence vote in 2017, said he had surrendered to Belgian authorities after Spain reactivated an international arrest warrant against him. Puigdemont was briefly detained before a judge ordered his conditional release.

mmc/sms (AP, Reuters)

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