Protests organized last night to coincide with a soccer match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in the Catalan capital saw several police charges and a brief interruption to the game itself when yellow plastic balls rained down on the pitch during the second half. Play was stopped for several minutes while fans in the stands of the Camp Nou stadium chanted “Freedom!” in Catalan.
The protests had been organized by an apparently leaderless movement known as Democratic Tsunami, and were called to demand the release of jailed independence leaders as well as to call for the independence of the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia. The organizers wanted to take advantage of the global interest in the game between Spain’s top two teams, a fixture known in Spanish as el clásico.
Exceptional security measures had been put in place ahead of the game, which had already been postponed from October 26 due to widespread demonstrations in Catalonia in response to the Supreme Court ruling that jailed the politicians and civil association chiefs involved in the 2017 secessionist drive in the region, which saw an illegal referendum take place followed by a unilateral declaration of independence passed in the regional government.
On Wednesday, the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, completely locked down the area, and a helicopter and drones were also on hand to assist with the operation. There were, however, still some violent incidents outside the stadium after the main protests passed off without problems. Around 5,000 demonstrators assembled at four points outside the Camp Nou, according to the municipal police.
Objects thrown at Mossos.
The protests intensified as the game reached half time. A group of fans without tickets tried to access the stadium by forcing their way through one of the access gates. Meanwhile, a few dozen youngsters set up barricades using trash containers, fencing and traffic signs. The Mossos fired foam bullets at the violent demonstrators. On the Travessera de Les Corts street there were confrontations between the Mossos and the demonstrators, some of whom were sat on the pavement. Some of the protestors set fire to trash cans. Early reports put the number of arrests at nine with 46 people treated by ambulance crews.
Earlier in the day the players had managed to arrive at the stadium without any problems. The game, which was a fixture in Spain’s top league, La Liga, ended 0-0.
English version by Simon Hunter.