Barcelona erupts as protestors clash with police and politicians

Regional premier warns that "legitimate force" will be used to disperse crowds

What had been billed as a "peaceful, massive and determined" protest in Barcelona on Wednesday descended into violence and recrimination as the first signs of splinters in the 15-M movement presaged the renewed use of batons on the part of security forces.

The main concentration of protestors broke off into two factions, a thousand or so decamping to the San Jaume square where the Barcelona City Hall is located. The protestors fear that undercover police agents have infiltrated their ranks to disorientate their actions.

The protestors had converged on the Ciutadella Park in the Catalan capital, which hosts the regional parliament, throughout Tuesday, despite a police cordon and chained gates, in an attempt to prevent deputies from attending a debate on the Generalitat's 2011 budget.

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Regional premier Artur Mas, the leader of the liberal Democratic Convergence of Catalonia party, and 24 deputies were ferried to the parliament building in helicopters while others ran the gauntlet through the crowd assembled outside. "It's intolerable," Mas said, adding the protestors were not acting "with indignation, but with indignity."

Some were heckled and jostled, while others, including former regional minister of justice, Montserrat Tura, were attacked with spray cans. Tura noted that if the 15-M movement wished to be taken seriously as a democratic force, "it cannot be based on spray cans, used to mark people as though they are targets. The Nazis did that."

Regional Interior Minister Felipe Puig was shoved as he arrived for his part in authorizing a police charge to clear the Plaça Catalunya, during which rubber bullets were fired and dozens of protestors injured, on May 27.

As the situation boiled over outside the parliament at midday, the Mossos d'Esquadra fired warning shots into the air. Although all of the parliamentary groups said that the protests were "legitimate," they called on the activists to "respect" the right of deputies to do their jobs.

"They have crossed the red line," said Mas, who warned that he would authorize the use of "legitimate force" to disperse the crowds and "guarantee the integrity of the deputies."

The protestors had penned an open letter to deputies exhorting them not to attend the budget debate and to boycott any move to introduce social spending cuts. "If you are aware of the effects that the cuts will have on the majority of the population, you will not attend. If you come and you find us at the doors, turn around and unite with us," the missive read.

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