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PROTESTS

Nearly 200 injured in Catalonia protests on Saturday: emergency services

Barcelona was bracing for fresh violence on Saturday after nearly 200 people were hurt in a night of clashes with radical separatists hurling rocks and fireworks at police.

Nearly 200 injured in Catalonia protests on Saturday: emergency services
Demonstators signalling to avoid being targeted by police on Saturday. Photo: Pau Barreno/AFP
A radical movement of young separatists, Arran, called for a new demonstration “against repression” for 1600 GMT in central Barcelona.   
 
The Catalan capital resembled a chaotic battleground Friday, the fifth consecutive day of protests over a Spanish court's jailing of nine separatist leaders on sedition charges over a failed independence bid two years ago.
   
Emergency services said Saturday that 152 people had been injured in overnight clashes in Barcelona, with dozens more hurt in the rest of Catalonia, taking the total to 182.
   
Authorities had already reported 500 injured since Monday even before the latest clashes erupted.
 
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According to the interior ministry, 83 people were detained in the overnight violence, in addition to the 128 arrests police had reported before Friday's march.
 
“This can't go on, Barcelona does not deserve this,” said Ada Colau, the city's leftist mayor on Saturday, condemning “all kinds of violence”.
   
The air in the Catalan capital was still heavy with a burning stench as municipal workers cleared the streets of broken glass, rocks and rubber bullets, and repaired pavements where bricks had been ripped out.
   
“All this is very sad, and is not helping our cause,” said Assumpcio Segui, a 75-year old pro-independence pensioner.
 
Around half a million people had rallied in Barcelona on Friday in the biggest gathering since Monday's court ruling as separatists also called a general strike in the major tourist destination.
   
While most marchers appeared peaceful, hordes of young protesters went on the rampage near the police headquarters, igniting a huge blaze that sent plumes of black smoke into the air, as police fired teargas to disperse them, an AFP correspondent said.
   
Other fires raged near Plaza de Catalunya at the top of the tourist hotspot Las Ramblas, where hundreds of demonstrators rallied in defiance of the police, who tried to disperse them with water cannon. “Anti-fascist Catalonia!” they roared. “The streets will always be ours!”
   
Scores of police vans could be seen fanning out around the streets, their sirens screaming as the regional police warned people in a message in English on Twitter “not to approach” the city centre.
   
Earlier, many thousands of “freedom marchers”, who had set out to walk from five regional towns on Wednesday, arrived in Barcelona wearing walking boots and carrying hiking poles.
   
The rally coincided with the general strike, prompting the cancellation of flights, the closure of shops, business and several top tourist attractions, and slowing public transport to a trickle in a region that accounts for about
a fifth of Spain's economic output.
   
Activists also cut off Catalonia's main cross-border highway with France.
 
In downtown Barcelona, many shops and luxury outlets were closed on the city's Paseo de Gracia, with blackened, charred patches a testimony to the nightly clashes that have raged since Monday.
   
Manchester City's Catalan manager Pep Guardiola, an outspoken campaigner for the independence movement, urged European intervention to ease the crisis.
   
“The international community must help us to solve the conflict between Catalonia and Spain,” he said. “Some mediator from outside (must) help us sit (down) and talk.”
   
The Supreme Court's explosive decision has thrust the Catalan dispute to the heart of the political debate as Spain heads towards a fourth election in as many years, which will be held on November 10.

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ENVIRONMENT

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.

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