Riot police clash with pro-Catalan protesters
Pro-independence protesters clashed with riot police in Barcelona and blocked roads across Catalonia as the Spanish government held a controversial cabinet meeting in the city yesterday.
What Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had billed as a "show of appreciation" for Catalonia amid long-running tensions instead drew an outpouring of anger from independence supporters who described the visit as a "provocation".
At least 11 people were arrested as groups of protesters barricaded streets in a failed attempt to prevent the meeting from taking place, an objective which then switched to keeping Mr Sánchez and his ministers hemmed inside the Llotja de Mar palace.
As police charged against masked protesters who encroached on the security perimeter set up around the building, organisers of the self-styled Catalan Republic Defence Committees (CDR) urged demonstrators to remain peaceful and refrain from throwing objects.
The Catalan government also put out messages on social media asking people to protest peacefully against the presence of the Spanish government. But in several areas of Barcelona, violence broke out, with riot police wielding batons to push back protesters, the most radical of whom pelted them with stones and overturned bins. In at least one confrontation, officers fired foam bullets.
More than 20 major roads were blocked around the Catalan capital yesterday morning, as well as train services being halted by flaming barricades. The city's transport authority said road traffic was cut by half compared to a normal day.
Some 50 people were treated for injuries, around 30 of them police officers, the Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra force said.
"They've come to say 'here I command'," Earnest Maragall, a Catalan parliamentarian and the Republican Left's candidate for mayor of Barcelona, said of the Spanish cabinet's visit. Omnium, the grassroots group whose leader Jordi Cuixart was among four jailed Catalan separatists who on Thursday ended a three-week hunger strike, denounced it as a "provocation".
The meeting was held on the anniversary of the snap Catalan election called by Madrid after it dissolved the government in response to its declaration of independence last year - a vote that again returned pro-independence parties to power.
Earlier this month, Mr Sanchez's Socialist government had admonished the Catalan administration for police passivity in the face of CDR protests and roadblocks.
That led Spain's interior ministry to design a security plan for the cabinet meeting that included thousands of police officers brought in from outside Catalonia. (© Daily Telegraph London)