Barcelona, Oct 14 (AFP/APP): Thousands of Catalan separatists hit the streets in protest and blocked access to Barcelona airport on Monday after Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine of their leaders to heavy jail terms over the failed 2017 independence bid.
The long-awaited ruling capped weeks of rising tension, and puts the Catalan question at the heart of the political debate less than a month before Spain heads into its fourth general election in as many years.
Thousands of people gathered in the centre of Barcelona for an evening protest, chanting “The streets will always be ours” and other slogans. Many carried Catalan separatist flags.
As soon as news of the sentence broke in the morning, demonstrators flooded the streets of Barcelona before marching towards El Prat, Spain’s second busiest airport, where they choked off road and rail access, an AFP correspondent said.
At the entrance to the airport, police wearing helmets and riot gear repeatedly charged at protesters trying to get inside, an AFP correspondent said, while the AENA airport authority said 108 flights had been cancelled.
At one point, traffic outside came to a complete standstill up to five kilometres (three miles) from the airport, with many travellers with suitcases getting out and walking as a police helicopter flew overhead.
Police arrested one protester at the airport while 53 people were injured.
Another three people were injured, and another demonstrator was arrested, at protests elsewhere in Catalonia.
Since the early hours, police have been braced for what activists pledged would be a mass response of civil disobedience. Roads have been cut in differents parts of the region while rail traffic has been affected.
“I feel very affected by the sentence even though I expected it. I feel fury and a sense of powerlessness,” said Joan Guich, a 19-year-old maths student who was protesting on Barcelona#’s main thoroughfare, Gran Via, in the afternoon.
“They have been convicted for an ideology which I agree with.”