Tens of thousands of people are marching to Barcelona from across the region in protest at the sentencing of Catalan separatist leaders.
Fourth night of violence
Catalan separatists burned barricades and clashed with police in Barcelona on Thursday in a fourth night of violence triggered by Spain’s jailing of nine of their leaders over a failed independence bid.
Hundreds of young protesters chanting “independence” set fire to improvised roadblocks in the centre of the city late in the evening, tossing Molotov cocktails at police, who responded by firing foam and anti-riot rounds.
Authorities confirmed that a further 18 people were arrested during the night of protests and some 19 treated for injuries sustained during the clashes.
Separatists have called a general strike and a rally on Friday against the Supreme Court’s decision to jail the separatist leaders for their role in a referendum banned by Madrid and a short-lived declaration of independence.
Graffiti reads “freedom or chaos” daubed in Barcelona. Photo: AFP
Trains, both metro lines, regional commuter routes and AVE services wereall on affected on Friday. A minimum service of 33 percent was imposed throughout the day on commuter and regional routes, while buses including those to the airport saw a 50 percent cut in services during the rush hours and were running a minimum servcie of 25percent the rest of the day.
The road leading to the border with France at La Jonquera was closed on Friday morning as protesters set up blockades.
Main roads leading into Barcelona were also closed bringing traffic to a standstill. Two main arteries into the Catalan capital, Avenida Meridiana and the Ronda del Litoral were blocked.
Many roads were blocked off, in some cases by demonstrators, in others by burning tyres or mattresses, and in one area activists had even strewn nails on the roads, causing punctures among passing cars.
In the centre of Barcelona, the Avenida Diagonal, la Meridiana and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes were all closed as marchers filled the streets.
Of the 979 flights sheduled on Friday, 789 were guaranteed to be operating according to minimum service rules in place for the strike.
Vueling cancelled around 30 flights but all others were operating normally.
Earlier on Thursday, around 25,000 striking students and their supporters took part in a midday rally outside Barcelona city hall, according to municipal police.
Classes were suspended at schools across the region although they remained open with minimum staff.
Carmaker Seat said it had halted production at its plant in Martorell, near Barcelona, from Thursday afternoon until Saturday, over concerns that the marches would disrupt traffic.
In Barcelona, Spain’s top tourist destination, most of the stalls were shuttered in the city’s famed La Boqueria market, and its renowned Liceu opera house cancelled Friday night’s performance.
The usual queues of tourists waiting to enter the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous unfinished basilica, were instead replaced by protesters draped in Estelada flags and brandishing posters with separatist slogons.
🔴 [EN] Due to a group of protesters currently stationed in front of the Basilica, blocking the entrance, we can’t ensure visitors will have access to the grounds.
We hope the situation will return to normal as quickly as possible. (1/3)
— La Sagrada Família (@sagradafamilia) October 18, 2019
Crusie ships diverted
At least two ships were diverted from Barcelona to avoid the protests. TUI took the decision on Thursday to divert two ships, the Mein Schiff 4 and the Mein Schiff away from Barcelona port. The two ships combined carried 5,300 passengers and were due to dock in Barcelona on Friday.
Another cruise ship, Marella Discovery, with its 2,000 passengers was diverted from Tarragona to Ibiza.
March on Barcelona
Thousands from across Catalonia are on a cross-country march towards Barcelona for Friday’s rally.
Activists blocked several roads across Catalonia by burning tyres while the commuter rail service in Barcelona was intermittently disrupted due to demonstrators on the tracks, officials said.
Several roads and highways were also blocked off due to the mass marches which departed on Wednesday from five Catalan towns heading for Barcelona.
They were expected to converge on the Catalan capital by 5:00 pm for yet another massive demonstration.
El Clasico cancelled.
With the region mired in chaos, football giants Barcelona and Real Madrid have been told to postpone next weekend’s Clasico match, a hugely popular clash which had been due to take place at the city’s Camp Nou stadium on October 26th.
The Spanish Football Federation said the two clubs would agree on a later date to schedule the match. Both clubs had reportedly refused an offer to hold the match in Madrid.
For up to the minute information on road closures, transport services and trouble spots check the official twitter account of the Catalan emergency services.