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AFP
October 16, 2019

Spain braces for fresh unrest

World

AFP
October 16, 2019

BARCELONA: Catalonia geared up for more upheaval on Tuesday a day after thousands of pro-independence activists stormed Barcelona airport in an angry response to Spain’s jailing of nine of its leaders following a failed secession bid.

By early on Tuesday, several roads and railway lines remained cut as activists awaited new instructions from Democratic Tsunami, the group which coordinated Monday’s mass bid to swarm the city’s El Prat airport, where they choked-off road and rail access.

Activists engaged in running battles with riot police as they sought to enter the terminal but were repeatedly rebuffed, with police staging multiple charges and firing foam rounds into the crowds in a standoff which forced the cancellation of 110 flights, airport officials said.

Although life was slowly returning to normal at the airport after a night in which hundreds of people were stranded at the terminal, another 45 flights were cancelled on Tuesday morning, Spanish airport authority AENA said.

Monday’s ruling unleashed a day of chaos, with Catalan separatists enraged by the Supreme Court’s decision to hand heavy prison sentences of between nine and 13 years to leaders convicted of sedition over the 2017 referendum and short-lived declaration of independence.

The emergency services said 131 people were injured in the protests, 115 of them at the airport, with the rest in Barcelona and elsewhere. One protester sustained a serious injury to his eye, hospital officials said. One person was arrested, police said.

Many people took the day off to join the protests, heeding widespread calls on social media to "Turn Catalonia into the new Hong Kong" and raise international awareness of the crisis in this wealthy northeastern region of Spain. Hong Kong has been rattled by weeks of pro-democracy street protests.

"For me, the worst thing is Europe, which hasn’t said anything. That’s why we’re doing this, to cause the worst possible disturbance, so it affects everyone, to see if they realise and do something," IT consultant Carles Navarro told AFP.

"We have always chosen peaceful ways (of fighting for what we believe in) but nobody listens. Now we’re forced to go down the route of civil disobedience." In a message to its 150,000 followers on the Telegram messaging app, Democratic Tsunami directed activists to head for the airport.

"The time has come to make our voice felt around the world. The goal: stop the activity of Barcelona’s airport," it said in a call heeded by thousands.

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