Catalan pro-independence activists scuffle with police at massive rally in Barcelona (VIDEO)
Protesters have disrupted railway services and blocked Barcelona airport as well as main roads leading to and from the city. At one point, they began throwing firecrackers and trash cans at riot police. Officers responded by detaining at least 13 of protesters.
A visit by Spanish Cabinet ministers to the city, during which they hope to come to terms with leaders of Catalan independence movement, is thought to have ignited the protest.
Earlier on Thursday, nine Catalan pro-independense leaders, jailed by Spanish authorities, urged supporters to stage a large but peaceful protest, according to Reuters.
Four of them called off a hunger strike which they started in early December.
The protest became more violent when a reporter with local broadcaster Intereconomia TV was aggressively attacked during the rally.
The network’s video shows the journalist being pushed away by a man wearing black sunglasses. Moments later, he is punched in the face and falls to the ground. Apparently, his cameraman was also assaulted as the camera repeatedly lost signal.
It comes after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Catalan leader Quim Torra held a meeting earlier this week, calling for the conflict over Catalonia’s independence to be defused.
Their joint statement has provided an opening for a political solution to a dispute that reached its peak in 2017, when Catalonia declared its independence from Spain.
The move, however, was reversed as Madrid responded to the independence vote by seizing control of the region, sacking the entire cabinet, and jailing Catalonian independence leaders.
Pro-independence activists have taken part in violent rallies throughout the year. In October, some 180,000 people took to the streets to mark the one-year anniversary of the Catalan independence vote.
Protesters chanted ‘October 1, no forgiving, no forgetting’ in an apparent reference to last year’s referendum.
Earlier in September, a whopping one million people walked through a six-kilometer (3.7 mile) stretch of Barcelona, most of whom were dressed in the colors of the Catalan separatist flag.
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