Barcelona protests: General strike shuts down Catalonia

After another night of violence in the streets of Barcelona, a general strike called in protest at the jailing of Catalan separatist leaders sees the region grind to a halt.

Barcelona protests: General strike shuts down Catalonia
Protesters are marching to Barcelona to stage a massive demonstration. Photo: AFP

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. 


General  strike

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.

Roads cut

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. 

Flights cancelled

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. 


Student strike

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.

Factories close

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.

Tourist sites

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. 





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.



Latest information

For up to the minute information on road closures, transport services and trouble spots check the official twitter account of the Catalan emergency services. 


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Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.