Civilians form human shield between protesters and police to deter further skirmishes after plea from city’s mayor
Spain’s government has rejected calls for negotiations from Catalonia’s president on the grounds that he had not sufficiently condemned the violence of protests that have gripped Barcelona for six straight days.
Despite the city’s mayor pleading for restraint and the efforts of dozens of middle-aged protesters to form a human barrier between younger protesters and riot police to prevent another street battle, violence eventually erupted again late on Saturday night.
But Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez rebuffed his request, saying: “Mr Torra must strongly condemn the violence, which he has not done so far. The government of Spain reiterates that the problem of Catalonia is not independence, which will not occur because it is not legal and nor does the majority of Catalans want it, but rather coexistence.”
The protests have raged since Monday after the Spanish Supreme Court handed lengthy jail terms to nine pro-independence leaders for their role in 2017’s failed independence bid, including the staging of an unlawful referendum.
Elected as president in 2018, Mr Torra, a hardline independence supporter, has been criticised for initially encouraging civil disobedience and being slow to condemn the violence.
By late afternoon, skirmishes had broken out, with police using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to dispel protesters.
While roughly 200 police officers have reportedly been injured since protests began, they have been heavily criticised for using excessive force.
Amnesty International said it observed instances where officers had used batons and other weapons against those who posed no risk and that hundreds had been injured by anti-riot equipment.
“People can’t take their children to school, they can’t open their businesses,” said Barcelona-born Mr Rivera, head of the pro-unionist Ciudadanos party. “We need a Spanish government that protects the weak.”