Mass protests across Catalunya over former regional president Carles Puigdemont’s arrest in Germany have led to several demonstrators ending up in handcuffs and the A-7 motorway through the province of Girona being cut off.
Thousands gathered outside the European Commission headquarters on Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia, the city’s main shopping boulevard, in a demonstration organised by the Catalunya National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural – whose leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart respectively have been in jail since October.
The ANC’s newly-elected chairwoman Elisenda Paluzie appealed to public opìnion in Germany and to the fundamental values of the European Union for Puigdemont to be able to be free from extradition since his supporters do not believe he would receive a fair trial in Spain.
Demonstrators marched along the seafront esplanade as far as the German Consulate where a manifesto was read out.
Six pro-independence campaigners were arrested for ‘incidents’ in the vicinity of the government headquarters in Barcelona, allegedly involving objects being thrown and barriers broken down.
Many others – including an off-duty member of the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra – were ordered to show their ID.
Some protesters were said to have let off fire extinguishers, pepper spray and even turpentine in aerosol format, and hurled bottles, cans, smoke-bombs and yellow paint, the colour associated with support for the ‘political prisoners’, or high-ranking Catalunya government members in jail for their role in the disputed independence referendum on October 1.
One group tried to throw a wheelie-bin at the police, another group set fire to some of them, and fences and flower pots from bar terraces were thrown.
Parallel protests took place later in the evening, with one convened by the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), who gathered outside the government headquarters.
Emergency services treated 87 people for minor injuries, including eight members of the Mossos d’Esquadra.
Chanting, “the Catalunya spring has sprung,” protesters brought the C/ Diagonal and C/ Còrsega to a standstill and traffic had to be diverted.
An estimated 55,000 people joined protests in Catalunya’s four provincial capital cities, most of whom marched in Barcelona.
Some 2,000 gathered in Lleida – Catalunya’s only inland province – outside the government officers, and six were injured in the struggle with riot police, whilst several hundred protested in Tarragona calling for release for the ‘political prisoners’ and for a general region-wide strike.
About 10,000 people demonstrated outside the government offices in Girona, the capital of Puigdemont’s native province before another 4,000 blocked off the AP-7 motorway which runs through France and along the whole of Spain’s east coast.
The N-154 inter-provincial highway in Puigcerdà (Girona province), one of the main roads that cross the French border, was blocked by crowds, as was the C-14 in Ponts (Lleida province) in both directions with slow-moving car protests.
More first-gear demonstrations slowed traffic to a crawl on the A-2 motorway in Soses (Lleida province), the N-340 national highway in Alcanar (Tarragona province) and the C-32 in Sant Pere de Ribes (Barcelona province).
Radical youth organisation Arran, linked to the CUP – one of Catalunya’s pro-secession parties – painted the word ‘fascist’ in the street outside judge Pablo Llarena’s house in the town of Das (Girona province) and, in smaller letters, “Llarena fascist! Not in Das or anywhere;” “The Catalán nations will be your hell,” and “Freedom for political prisoners.”
The Permanent Commission for the General Judicial Power Council (CGPJ) has taken urgent steps to protect Llarena and his family, as well as other judges and magistrates in Catalunya.
Protesters across the region chanted, “Puigdemont, president;” “October 1, we won’t forgive or forget,” referring to the alleged police violence on the day of the ‘banned’ independence referendum; “not one step back;” and “strike, strike, strike,” whilst others used strong language to describe judge Llarena and told him he should go to jail instead.
The youth organisation La Forja painted graffiti on the walls of the government building in Girona, whilst activists, in general, carried Catalunya regional flags and a huge placard reading, “We’re a Republic,” painted the word ‘Freedom’ on the walls of the building and set off a red smoke-bomb in the street.
A European arrest warrant was issued by Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena on Friday – several months after an earlier one was scrapped after Puigdemont fled to Belgium with four of his ministers – leading to his being intercepted in the northern German town of Schuby after crossing the border by car from Denmark en route home to Waterloo, Belgium, from Finland.
Puigdemont had registered with police in Helsinki after giving a conference at the university and then decided to make his way back to his rented house in Belgium where he has been since October.
He will stay the night in Neumünster prison and negotiations will begin