CATALONIA

Catalan campaigners dismantle toll booths to let drivers through for free

The so-called Committees for the Defense of the Republic say they took the action in protest at the jailing of pro-independence leaders

The CDR group at a toll booth on the AP-7.
The CDR group at a toll booth on the AP-7.CDR CARDEDÉU

A Catalan group calling itself the Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) had put out a call to drivers in the northeastern Spanish region to refuse to pay toll charges on their journeys back home at the end of last week’s Easter break. But the collective did not wait to see if members of the public would heed their call, and dozens of activists on Sunday descended on toll booths between 4 and 7pm on Sunday, dismantling the barriers and allowing cars to pass for free.

Toll booth operator Abertis has confirmed that vehicles were able to escape the fees at La Roca del Vallès (on the AP-7, in Barcelona), at L’Hospitalet de l’Infant (AP-7, Tarragona) and El Vendrell (C-32, Tarragona). Operator Autema, meanwhile, confirmed that the CDR took similar action at the Catellbell I el Vilar toll booths in the C-16 in Barcelona.

The activists, some of whom were wearing reflective jackets and hoods, covered up the cameras installed at the toll booths

The campaign being waged by the CDR is a form of protest against the jailing of pro-Catalan independence leaders, many of whom are being held in pre-trial custody while their part in last year’s declaration of independence in the regional parliament is investigated.

The activists, some of whom were wearing reflective jackets and hoods, covered up the cameras installed at the toll booths to prevent the vehicles that passed without paying from being identified, and handed out fliers to drivers. Abertis contacted the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra.

By 7pm, an Abertis spokesperson confirmed, “the situation had returned to normal.”

The CDR activists also occupied two parts of the highway, on the C-16 (Castellbell I el Vilar, Barcelona), and the C-13 (Térmens, Lleida).

The CDR had spent several days prior to the weekend trying to rally support for the campaign for Catalans to refuse to pay toll charges on their return from vacation. “During Operation Return, wherever you come from, don’t pay any tolls,” was the slogan used. The initiative is similar to one put into action in 2012, and promoted by the pro-independence movement in the region. Thousands of drivers passed through the toll booths without paying in protest at the high charges for road users in the region.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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