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Protests erupt across Catalonia against Supreme Court verdict on separatists

Demonstrators have descended on El Prat airport in Barcelona, where there have already been police charges and disruption for passengers

Independence supporters filled Barcelona airport on Monday.
Independence supporters filled Barcelona airport on Monday.

Protesters have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the Supreme Court ruling in the case of the Catalan separatist leaders tried for their involvement in the 2017 breakaway attempt. On Monday, Spain’s top court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison after finding them guilty of sedition in connection with the unilateral breakaway attempt of October 2017. Oriol Junqueras, the former deputy premier of Catalonia, received the heaviest sentence: 13 years for sedition and misappropriation of public funds.

The verdict has been met with anger by pro-independence groups in Catalonia, which began to demonstrate in the streets and to block traffic on Monday morning.

A woman holds a a banner reading “Freedom for political prisoners!”
A woman holds a a banner reading “Freedom for political prisoners!” AFP

There were clashes at Barcelona airport between the regional police and independence supporters after thousands of demonstrators stormed the facilities. Around 20 flights have been canceled according to Aena, the airport authority. At around 5.30pm Mossos d’Esquadra officers were still trying to clear the area between Terminal 1 and the parking zone, where the bus and taxi stops to the city center are located. The action at El Prat was called by a platform known as Tsunami Democràtica (Democratic Tsunami), which distributed fake boarding passes and called on demonstrators to use any means possible to get to the airport, even on foot. In Girona, around 300 people blocked off railroad tracks used by conventional trains and by the high-speed AVE service.

Earlier in the day, Democratic Tsunami, which has no visible leaders, called on its followers to take to the streets. The pro-independence group uses the instant messaging service Telegram to communicate with its network, which has more than 125,000 Telegram subscribers, 67,000 Twitter followers, 25,000 Instagram followers and a closed Facebook group with 2,600 members.

Gathering outside the Òmnium Culural building after the ruling was announced. The 300 people yell chants like: “Our sentence, disobedience,” and: “We all know they are innocent” and sing songs like Bella Ciao.

On orders from the Mossos, trains headed to El Prat were halted, while the Metro service was also suspended between the Parc Nou and Terminal 1 stations. Spanish airports authority AENA was recommending on Monday for passengers to give themselves extra time to reach the airport. Airline Vueling, which operates the highest volume of flights at El Prat, stated on Monday afternoon that there were no delays or cancellations to flights as a result of the protests, but warned that some passengers may not get to the airport in time to catch their flight. 

Pro-independence political parties stage a silent protest inside the Catalan Parliament.
Pro-independence political parties stage a silent protest inside the Catalan Parliament. Europa Press

The high-speed AVE train service was also interrupted at 2pm, after around 100 protestors invaded the tracks at Girona station, despite a heavy police presence there. Hundreds of people also occupied the regular train service platforms and lines in the same city at around 12.45pm.

Students mobilize after the Supreme Court ruling: “We will leave the classroom and fill the streets.”

First protests

On Monday morning, in the wake of the ruling, the protesters cut off several major avenues, including the Ronda de Dalt and La Rambla, and traffic was badly congested on the N-260 highway between Navata and Figueres in Girona, according to the Catalan traffic service.

Protesters shout slogans against Supreme Court verdict in Barcelona.
Protesters shout slogans against Supreme Court verdict in Barcelona. AP

In Barcelona, around 300 protesters gathered outside the headquarters of Òmnium Cultural, a pro-independence organization headed by Jordi Cuixart, who was sentenced to nine years in prison and given a nine-year ban on holding public office for his role in the breakaway attempt. The protesters waved signs reading: “Freedom for political prisoners,” and yelled chants such as: “We all know they are innocent,” and: “Our sentence, disobedience.”

In the Catalan parliament, around 100 workers and lawmakers held a silent protest to demonstrate against the Supreme Court ruling. And Barcelona City Council will hold an extraordinary plenary session next Thursday to let parties take a stand on the political situation. Committee sessions scheduled for the coming days have been pushed to next week.

In Girona, Lleida and Manresa, pro-independence groups took to the streets to protest the Supreme Court ruling. Students protested in Sant Jaume square in the center of the Catalan capital, while others blocked off traffic with a sit-in at University square. Staff at the Clinic, Bellvitge and Sant Pau hospitals demonstrated outside hospital buildings.

In a message on Twitter, the grassroots pro-independence group Committees to Defend the Republic (CDR) called for “disobedience,” writing: “Now is the time to rise up against the authoritarian fascism of the Spanish state and its accomplices.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

During protests in Tarragona on Monday in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in the trial of pro-Catalan independence leaders, a woman who was carrying a Spanish flag and was confronting supporters of secession from Spain was punched in the face. After receiving a number of insults from passers-by, she was waving her flag vigorously and shouting at demonstrators that they were on “Spanish soil.” At that moment, one of the protestors snatched her flag away. She responded by grabbing the man’s rucksack, at which point he spun around and struck her hard in the face. Many of the protestors came to the woman’s aid, while she continued to shout, saying: “You are murderers.” Two police officers tended to the woman and took her away from the scene. ATLAS
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