Spanish PM to Catalan premier: “Violence is not the way”

Pedro Sánchez has warned Quim Torra to stop encouraging violent street protesters after activists stormed the regional parliament building

Carlos E. Cué
Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez.
Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez.ÓSCAR DEL POZO (AFP)

The Spanish government has warned Catalan premier Quim Torra to restore order after violent protesters surrounded the regional parliament in Barcelona on Monday night.

Hundreds of radical separatists defied the Catalan police, attempting to break into the building on the first anniversary of an unauthorized referendum on independence. At around 9.30pm, hooded activists broke through a police cordon and marched to the doors of the building shouting: “Occupy parliament!”

He has to understand that what happened yesterday is partly his responsibility

Deputy PM Carmen Calvo

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), blamed Torra for encouraging the violent protesters.

In a message on Twitter, Sánchez wrote: “Premier Torra must fulfill his responsibilities and not jeopardize political normalization by encouraging radicals to lay siege to institutions that represent all Catalans. Violence is not the way.”

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said that “as the top authority in Catalonia, Torra has to protect the security of all Catalans.”

“He has to understand that what happened yesterday is partly his responsibility,” she added, before appearing at the Forbes Women’s Summit.

Earlier on Monday, Torra had encouraged supporters of Catalan independence to continue “putting on the pressure” after pro-independence groups cut off major roads, blocked the AVE high-speed rail link and organized street marches.

PSOE secretary general José Luis Ábalos initially dismissed suggestions that Torra’s comments were a “call to violence,” but after last night’s protest the government has toughened its stance.

Torra must not encourage radicals to lay siege to institutions that represent all Catalans

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez

Following the unprecedented scenes, Deputy PM Calvo said Torra cannot “fail in something so important as security.”

Torra is widely considered a hard-line separatist but is now viewed by these groups as a traitor to “the spirit of October 1” for failing to openly disobey the state’s institutions, and for using the Catalan regional police against them at a Saturday march in Barcelona that descended into violence.

Cries of “disobey or resign!” were heard during the Monday-evening demonstration despite Torra’s earlier attempt to reach out to radical sectors by telling them to “keep putting on the pressure, you are doing the right thing by putting on pressure.”

During his visit to New York in September, Sánchez warned he would call new regional elections if Torra continued to “prioritize conflict.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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