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Thousands of people rally in front of the offices of the Spanish Government in Girona, against the arrest of ex-President Carles Puigdemont and for freedom for the Catalan political prisoners

Thousands of people rally in front of the offices of the Spanish Government in Girona, against the arrest of ex-President Carles Puigdemont and for freedom for the Catalan political prisoners. Photo: @CUPGirona

Marching on the motorways and confronting police violence, the mass movement has returned with a new defiance, reports Jack Hazeldine

#PrimaveraCatalana (Catalan Spring) is trending in Catalonia as crowds today marched on Sunday on the largest motorways, filled the streets of every city, occupied public buildings and faced down police brutality, demanding that the Spanish state “Free political prisoners” and end direct rule.

In Barcelona, many tens of thousands marched from the European Commission office in the Catalan capital to the German consulate, filling the main avenues to the brim, with chants such as “not a single step backwards”, "Puigdemont is our president," and "this Europe is a disgrace". Nearly ninety - mainly civilians - are said to have been injured by police throughout the day.

Thousands of protesters congregated at the building of the Spanish government delegation that is governing Catalonia under anti-democratic direct rule, but they were held back by police in full riot gear in the largest scale confrontation: 

In Lleida, many gathered protesting at the doors of the 'subdelegation' building of the Spanish authorities, as did protesters in Girona - painting it with the word "Freedom".

Nearby the latter city, in the most striking action of the day, protestors stormed Catalonia's main motorway, the AP-7 and occupied it for hours:

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Mass demonstrations were held in every town from 5pm with many continuing into the evening, following hot on the trail of large angry protests on Friday against the imprisonment of a further 5 ex-ministers by the Spanish state and the issuing of European Arrest Warrants for the ex-President and 5 other ex-ministers in exile in Europe on the Francoist charges of sedition and rebellion.

The calls to the streets were further galvanised by the news earlier on Sunday that ex-President Carles Puigdemont has been detained by German police and ex-minister Carla Ponsati has been requested to turn herself in by Scottish police.  Many are calling for the former to be reinvested as President after the Spanish state blocked this (and that of his nominated successor the jailed Jordi Sanchez) in February following his party’s successful election campaign in December.

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Hundreds of thousands poured into the streets in the end across Catalonia, as Carles Riera, leading figure of the anti-capitalist pro-independence party the CUP and a regional MP, called for people to “"Get out in the streets. The mandate of the people is clear: it's long since enough: stop the country!"

The reality of Spanish state repression has been heightened by brutal police intervention to obstruct protests on Friday evening and continuing today - and was certainly a motivating factor for many to join the crowds. Filmed here this afternoon in one video officers lash out with batons at the crowds, and in another crowds push back with force against police kettling.:

Graphic images have circulated widely on social media of bruises and cuts and of local ‘Mossos’ police – now under Spanish state orders – charging and smashing batons into protesters trying to make their way towards government buildings without aggression, but with a steadfast determination.  Activists in contact with this website have attended friends hospitalised, and certainly many dozens have been reported badly injured since Friday.

In total 25 elected ex-public officials are now being prosecuted under charges ranging from the Franco-era 'sedition' and 'rebellion' - which would comprise inciting violent uprising when no evidence for this has been cited or is known anywhere - to alleged 'misuse of public funds' in carrying out a democratic referendum which was mandated for by the regional parliament, elected on that precise basis by people in Catalonia in 2016.

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Solidarity demonstrations against the Spanish state repression are being called in many cities across Europe.  Snap ones were held in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London (outside the German embassy) on Sunday, whilst Bristol protests on Thursday.

Another slogan accompanying social media activity in recent days has been “Estem Preparades”: that activists at the base of the movement and organised in the network of Republic Defence Committees are willing to do whatever necessary to defend themselves and what they feel is the democratic mandate for independence from the aggression of the Spanish state.

A General Strike is now being planned, and has been called for by the CUP anti-capitalist party (which has 4 MPs and some significant support in the movement).

This will require notable initiative from the radical unions who planned the hugely successful one of October 3rd (following the massive police violence of the October 1st referendum), though they cover only around 15% of unionised workers.  Pressurising the much more conservative trade union confederations that cover all other unionised workers to participate is one of the necessary tasks in the coming days.  These latter of course did support the mass women’s strike only a couple of weeks ago.

However, a coalition of all progressives and radicals willing to defend democratic rights and freedoms and end Spanish direct rule now seems to be forming and encompassing the whole left including many who voted against independence, and beyond. Once again, as immediately following referendum, the brazen violence of the Spanish state has been a catalyst for mass unified resistance.

 

More images and videos

Protesters confident in the face of police:

Facing off on a main avenue in Barcelona:

How to block a motorway...

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Jack Hazeldine

Jack Hazeldine

Jack Hazeldine is an organiser in the People's Assembly and Stop the War.

Based in Bristol, he has coordinated the largest demonstrations and public meetings in the city in recent years: against austerity, in support of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of Labour, over the Junior Doctors' struggle and against the British bombing of Syria. He is currently travelling between the UK and Catalonia, building the solidarity campaign and corresponding on events.  

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