The corner of Rambla Catalunya and Gran Vía, in downtown Barcelona, became the epicenter of street protests on Wednesday, after news spread about a large raid against organizers of the independence referendum that Catalan authorities plan to hold on October 1 in defiance of Spain’s constitutional laws and courts.
This location is home to the Catalan government’s department of economic affairs, one of several agencies that were searched by the Spanish Civil Guard following orders from a Barcelona judge who is investigating around 20 people for disobedience and other crimes in connection with the organization of the outlawed ballot.
The Mossos were under strict orders to be “especially careful about the use of force”
Up to 40,000 people, according to the local police, congregated in front of the building to protest the 41 searches and 14 arrests made on Wednesday morning against top organizers of the referendum. Three people were released in the evening.
Protesters lingered on the street well into the night, with around 500 of them still there after midnight despite calls by two major pro-independence associations, Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium, entreating them to “leave the protesting for the following day.”
The regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, formed a security perimeter to ensure that Civil Guard officers inside the building would be able to exit safely.
Protesters lingered on the street well into the night, with around 500 of them still there after midnight
But the tension resulted in a few police charges and injured protesters. The demonstrators hurled objects at the Mossos – a police force that answers to the Catalan government, and which has lately been criticized for dragging its feet on the issue of halting the referendum. Three Civil Guard patrol cars were damaged.
The Mossos were under strict orders to be “especially careful about the use of force,” according to a memo sent to all officers by their police chief, Josep Lluís Trapero, and reported on by the news agency Europa Press.
Civil Guard officers began to leave the premises at around 3am. Riot police stepped in to ensure their safe passage through the angry crowd. The last Civil Guard members walked out at 7.15am on Thursday.
English version by Susana Urra.