Catalan Separatists Protest in the Streets Over Sentencing of Leaders – Rolling Stone
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Catalan Separatists Protest in the Streets Over Sentencing of Leaders

200 people reported injured over five days of demonstrations, nearly 100 arrested 

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 17: Protesters take to the streets to demonstrate after the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between 9 and 13 years in prison for their role of the 2017 failed Catalan referendum on October 17, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Protestors marched in the streets of Barcelona over sentences handed down to the leaders of the Catalan separatist movement.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Half a million pro-independence protestors marched in the streets of Barcelona during a general strike on Friday, still angry over sentences handed down Monday to the leaders of Catalan separatist movement. According to the Associated Press, more than 200 people have been reported injured over the five days of demonstrations and nearly 100 have been arrested. 

Two years ago this October, Catalonians clashed with police as they attempted to go to the polls and vote in a referendum on whether or not to secede from Spain. The country’s Supreme Court announced heavy prison sentences for nine of the independence campaign’s most outspoken supporters on Monday.

A protestors uses a sling during clashes with police in Barcelona, Spain, .The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protestCatalonia, Barcelona, Spain - 18 Oct 2019

Bernat Armangue/AP/Shutterstock

Oriol Junqueras, the former deputy leader of Catalonia, received the harshest sentence: 13 years in prison. Eight others were convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds for promoting an independence referendum in 2017; none were sentenced to fewer than nine years. Three others were found guilty of “disobedience” and will serve no jail time. All 12 proclaimed their innocence.

At the same time, the court issued a new arrest warrant for former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who has lived in exile in Brussels since the October 2017 referendum. At a press conference after the news of the sentences broke, Puigdemont declared the court’s verdict “confirms the strategy of repression and revenge against all those citizens who have sought the path of democracy to make their will possible… By condemning them, they condemn more than two million people who made possible the self-determination referendum.”

He went on to chastise European leaders for failing to stand in solidarity with those Catalonians calling for independence. “Their silence contributes toward the irreversible erosion of a Spanish democracy. The Europe that says nothing in the face of the Turkish atrocities against the Kurds is the same Europe that kept quiet when the police in a member state used terrifying violence as they attacked people going to vote,” Puigdemont said.

Demonstrators during a protest called for by the so-called Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) in downtown Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, 17 October 2019, against the sentence ruled by Supreme Court on 'proces' trial'. The Spanish Supreme Court on 14 October 2019 issued a European arrest warrant for the deposed former president following its sentencing of former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras to 13 years in jail for sedition and misuse of public funds. Several other political leaders were also handed multi-year prison sentences for their roles in holding a failed independence vote in 2017.CDR protests in Barceleona, Barcelona, Spain - 17 Oct 2019

Quique Garcia/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Protests have roiled in Barcelona and the region at large since the news on Monday. Police in riot gear were captured clashing with pro-independence protestors at Barcelona’s international airport, where 108 flights were canceled on Monday, according to the Spanish airport authority Aena. The U.S. State Department issued a security alert for Barcelona on Thursday, warning, “There is a high potential for more clashes.”

Protesters after a protest called for by the so-called Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) in downtown Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, 17 October 2019, against the sentence ruled by Supreme Court on 'proces' trial'. The Spanish Supreme Court on 14 October 2019 issued a European arrest warrant for the deposed former president following its sentencing of former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras to 13 years in jail for sedition and misuse of public funds. Several other political leaders were also handed multi-year prison sentences for their roles in holding a failed independence vote in 2017.CDR protests in Barceleona, Barcelona, Spain - 17 Oct 2019 Photo: Toni Albir/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Photo: Toni Albir/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

 

 

FC Barcelona, which was scheduled to meet Real Madrid on October 26 for “El Clásico” — the biggest match of the year — condemned the court’s decision. Together,  the two teams and the league called for the match to be rescheduled amidst the protests. 

FC Barcelona and the Catalan football federation condemned the prison sentences, and several former Barcelona players have spoken out in protest,  including Pep Guardiola. “Spain lives in an authoritarian drift in which anti-terrorist laws are used to prosecute dissent,” Guardiola said.  

 

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