Activists cut off rail and road routes while separatist leaders ask for more unity and pressure against the state
Supporters of Catalan independence on Monday cut off major roads, blocked the AVE high-speed rail link and organized street marches on the first anniversary of an unauthorized independence referendum and a police crackdown that made headlines across the world last year.
Members of the self-organized activist groups known as the Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) congregated on the L-11 highway where it meets the N-240 national road early Monday morning, said the Mossos d’Esquadra regional police force. The A-2 and AP-7 highways were also blocked, while at 8 am around 400 people cut off the AVE high-speed train line in Girona. Activists at the train station chanted: “October 1, we don’t forgive and we don’t forget!” The premises have now been cleared, AVE spokespeople said on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Catalonia’s pro-independence government observed the anniversary with a public event in Sant Julià de Ramis (Girona), the town where former premier Carles Puigdemont was going to vote in last year’s referendum, which went ahead despite being ruled illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. The police prevented Puigdemont from voting, and he was removed from office soon after when Madrid temporarily suspended Catalonia’s regional powers. The ousted leader fled the country to avoid being arrested and tried for rebellion and has since been living in Belgium where he continues to campaign for Catalan independence.
The event in Sant Julià de Ramis was attended by the Catalan premier, Quim Torra, and other members of his executive. In his address, Torra told the CDR groups to “keep putting on the pressure, you are doing the right thing by putting on pressure.”
In a symbolic move, the front row of seats at the event displayed photographs of all the leaders of the secessionist drive who either fled the country to avoid arrest or who were placed in custody ahead of their upcoming trial for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
Also on Monday morning, Puigdemont made a seven-minute address from Belgium calling for the unity of the independence movement and accusing the Spanish state of trying to divide them. “If we want to keep winning, it is essential not to stray from the path, to leave partisan interests to one side, and to avoid falling for the provocations of Catalonia’s adversaries,” he said.
The message comes on the heels of a confrontation between the Catalan government and the small far-left CUP party over the events this past weekend when the regional police acted against radical activists in Barcelona who were trying to boycott a public tribute to the police who participated in the referendum crackdown. On Saturday, members of the CDR pelted the police with paint and assaulted several demonstrators, resulting in six arrests and 24 people treated for minor injuries.
The CDR has been behind other public disturbances in the past; in early April, members tampered with toll booths on several turnpikes. Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, has investigated CDR members for acts of vandalism.