PROTESTS IN CATALONIA

Spanish PM announces trip to Barcelona after weekend violence

Pedro Sánchez said he is going to visit the police officers injured in the disturbances, and that he has sent Catalonia’s separatist leader a letter reminding him of his public duties

A riot police officer removes a barricade during a protest in Barcelona on Saturday night.
A riot police officer removes a barricade during a protest in Barcelona on Saturday night.JUAN MEDINA / REUTERS
Madrid / Barcelona - 21 Oct 2019 - 16:38 UTC

Spain’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), this morning announced that he is traveling to Catalonia today “to visit the police officers who were injured in the violent disturbances” of this past weekend.

The letter that Pedro Sánchez sent to Quim Torra.
The letter that Pedro Sánchez sent to Quim Torra.

Sánchez, who is reportedly not planning to meet with the leader of the Catalan government, the separatist Quim Torra, has instead sent him a letter reminding him of the obligations of the office that he holds, such as condemning violence, protecting law enforcement officers and avoiding civil unrest.

“The duty of any public official is to ensure the safety of all citizens [...] preserve the social harmony. [...] In recent days, your behavior has been moving precisely in the opposite direction,” reads the letter. Shortly after 9.30am, Sánchez said in a Twitter message that he had spoken with Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau to show his support. The mayor reportedly called for dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan governments: “If two sides want to talk, they find a way, either through third parties or however.”

I’ve just had a conversation with Mayor Ada Colau to express all our support and solidarity with the citizens of Barcelona. The government of Spain is working to guarantee safety and social harmony.

On Saturday, following particularly aggressive attacks on the police by groups of demonstrators in Barcelona the night before, Torra only went as far as to call for “responsibility,” and to request a meeting with Pedro Sánchez to begin “the dialogue” that the independence movement has been demanding for months. Torra also telephoned Sánchez, who refused to take the call until the former “unequivocally condemns the violent behavior that has taken place in several parts of Catalonia, sometimes even not far from his own office,” according to the letter.

Spain’s caretaker interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, said on Sunday that 288 police officers were injured in the weekend street violence, and 194 people arrested, 70 of whom have been brought before a judge and 18 remanded in custody.

Catalan premier Quim Torra.
Catalan premier Quim Torra.DAVID ZORRAKINO / Europa Press

For the first time in a week, the roads and streets of Barcelona were clear of roadblocks and demonstrators on Monday, easing traffic congestion in the Catalan capital.

The protests began on Monday of last week after Spain’s Supreme Court announced its decision to sentence nine separatist leaders to prison for their role in the illegal attempt to break away from Spain in 2017.

The independence movement had been anticipating an adverse ruling and organizing a popular response through a platform called Democratic Tsunami, which uses social media to mobilize supporters. On Friday, Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, ordered the Civil Guard to close down the group’s webpages and social media accounts.

Protesters turn on their cellphone flashlight to “show the amount of trash.” There are calls for the resignation of [Catalan Minister of the Interior] Miquel Buch.

While last Monday saw largely peaceful protests that sought to disrupt public transit – demonstrators blocked main thoroughfares and surrounded Barcelona’s El Prat airport, causing flight cancellations –  street violence escalated in the following nights, with masked youths building barricades, setting fires and clashing with riot police.

There has also been looting, with some Barcelona stores reporting the theft of clothing, footwear and mobile devices. The Media Markt store in Plaza de Catalunya had its windows smashed in. “They’ve taken everything they could, but especially cellphones and scooters,” said a store manager.

The seventh day of protests in Barcelona (Spanish text).

English version by Susana Urra.

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