Catalonia: Thousands protest police crackdown on independence referendum

Thousands of people Tuesday joined in protests across Catalonia over a Spanish police crackdown on Sunday’s banned independence referendum.

Protestors blocked roads in response to a call for a general strike by pro-independence groups and trade unions, affecting the public sector, public transport and basic services.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the city center of Barcelona, angered by the harsh treatment meted out by Spanish national police who tried to prevent the banned vote from taking place. Many demonstrated in front of the Barcelona headquarters of the Spanish National Police.

Shops were closed, universities halted classes and transport companies ran reduced services as supporters of Catalonia’s bid for independence from Spain attempted to maintain the momentum from Sunday’s vote.

Facing Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy held talks with opposition parties in Madrid.

The main trade unions, the CCOO and UGT stopped short of declaring a general strike, describing the action instead as a “work stoppage” to skirt labor laws that forbid strikes for political reasons.

The Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has called for international mediation to resolve the crisis.

Protesters gathering in Barcelona said they were motivated by fury at the violent crackdown. “This is a protest against police violence and maintaining momentum after Sunday,” said Victor Noguer, 27, a fire fighter.

“The streets will always be ours,” protesters chanted, some of them draped in the blue, yellow and red Estelada flag used by Catalan separatists.

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