POLICE clad in riot gear were deployed on the streets of Barcelona today (Friday) and clashed with protesters as demonstrations took place during a Spanish government meeting.
Videos and photographs showed officers wielding truncheons and shields tackling protesters in Barcelona. Parts of the city were also placed under lockdown.
MAJOR BREAKING: Riot police attacks pro-independence protesters in Barcelona. pic.twitter.com/Px8subAn20
— Catalans for Yes 🏴��🎗 (@CatalansForYes) December 21, 2018
— L’Accent (@laccent) December 21, 2018
It comes as pro-Catalan independence groups staged rallies in the city while Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and government ministers held their weekly Council of Ministers meeting.
Some of the groups who organised the event had previously threatened to shut the city down during the meeting in response to Madrid’s hardening stance on the Catalan independence movement.
Pro-independence protests also took place in several towns and cities across the region and demonstrators wearing yellow hi-vis vests, similar to the gilets jauntes in France, blocked the AP-7 motorway.
Omnium International, one of the groups who organised demonstrations, held a ‘People’s Cabinet’ meeting in Barcelona.
The group said the event was to demonstrate that protesters were saying no to the presence of the government in the city.
“People have come from everywhere to Barcelona today to demand justice and freedom,” Omnium International said.
People have come from everywhere to Barcelona today to demand #justice and #freedom. Thousands of people have shown up at the People’s Cabinet Meeting beginning just now to say no to the presence of the Spanish government in #Catalonia. pic.twitter.com/yzkOhRtHh7
— Omnium International (@OmniumIntl) December 21, 2018
The group added thousands had taken part but this has not been confirmed.
Cataluña’s Mossos d’ Esquadra police force said incidents including objects being thrown at their vehicles and fights with officers.
Pedro Sanchez said the meeting had been held in Barcelona to bring the work of government closer to its citizens.
“We work for politics and dialogue to respond to the needs of Spanish society,” Sanchez said.
Acercar la labor del #Gobierno a la ciudadanía de todo el país, a las personas a las que servimos. Con este objetivo hemos celebrado hoy el Consejo de Ministros en Barcelona. Trabajamos desde la política y el diálogo para dar respuesta a las necesidades de la sociedad española. pic.twitter.com/DsiyBVm4AI
— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) December 21, 2018
The Council of Ministers approved the previously announced minimum wage rise to €900, agreed to toughen penalties for sex crimes and unveiled a €112 million investment package for Cataluña’s roads.
The meeting comes as Cataluña’s pro-independence president Quim Torra travelled to Madrid yesterday (Thursday) for meetings with Sanchez.
Both agreed to make moves towards greater self rule for Cataluña and to reduce tensions which have heightened in the wake of the anniversary of last year’s independence push.
Sanchez has faced calls in recent weeks to re-impose Article 155 on Cataluña. The Article is the constitutional mechanism Madrid used to suspend regional authorities in Cataluña and impose direct rule last year.
A la cimera del @govern amb el govern espanyol he plantejat a @sanchezcastejon una proposta basada en 3 grans consensos de la societat catalana: exercir el dret d’autodeterminació; no a la repressió; i una Catalunya republicana. També la proposta d’una mediació internacional. pic.twitter.com/ESMQoMAvkQ
— Quim Torra i Pla (@QuimTorraiPla) December 20, 2018