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18 Dec, 2019 21:33

Clashes with police after Barcelona v. Real Madrid game as tens of thousands protest for Catalan independence (VIDEOS)

Clashes with police after Barcelona v. Real Madrid game as tens of thousands protest for Catalan independence (VIDEOS)

Thousands of pro-Catalan independence protesters gathered at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium for a heated demonstration amid the highly anticipated El Clasico match of La Liga. It ended in clashes and a tough police response.

The crowd of demonstrators filled the streets around the stadium on Wednesday, blocking a major avenue and disrupting traffic as they shouted pro-independence slogans and waved banners, despite a heavy police presence in the area.

As day turned to night, however, the scene descended into heated clashes, with demonstrators trading projectiles with police and setting waste bins ablaze.

Footage shared on social media captured some of the street skirmishes, showing masked riot police armed with clubs subduing the crowds. Some demonstrators constructed burning barricades during the clashes, which firefighters were later called in to extinguish.

A group of protesters reportedly breached an exterior fence in an attempt to enter the stadium sometime during the second half of the match, but were stopped by police.

Some 25,000 people signed up to participate in the demonstration, protest organizers said – though it is unclear how many of them actually showed up for the event, with police putting the number around 5,000. More than 3,000 police and security personnel were on site to manage the crowds, while another 500 riot officers were sent to Barcelona by the central government. Madrid said they would only intervene at the request of local law enforcement, however.

Initially set for October, the El Clasico match was postponed for fear of continued disorder after the arrest of nine Catalan lawmakers for their part in a 2017 independence referendum, which was deemed illegal by Madrid and shut down with a heavy-handed police action. After the long delay, however, the much-awaited bout ended in a disappointing stalemate of 0-0.

The demonstration was organized by a pro-independence Catalan group known as Democratic Tsunami, which says it favors peaceful civil disobedience as a tactic to achieve self-determination and the release of imprisoned Catalan leaders. The group has staged protests at Camp Nou previously – known to shout “independence!” in unison during some matches – and was behind another mass demonstration at Barcelona’s major airport in October, which also ended in violent clashes with police.

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