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Catalans stop work to protest police force during referendum

  • A man with the Catalan flag painted on his face attends a demonstration downtown Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Thousands of people demonstrated against the confiscation of ballot boxes and charges on unarmed civilians during Sunday's referendum, declared illegal by Spain's Constitutional Court, on Catalonia's secession from Spain.(AP Photo/Santi Palacios) SANTI PALACIOS

  • People, one of them with a Catalan independence flag around her shoulders, watch Spain's King Felipe's statement to the country about the situation in Catalonia on TV downtown Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Thousands of people demonstrated against the confiscation of ballot boxes and charges on unarmed civilians during Sunday's referendum, declared illegal by Spain's Constitutional Court, on Catalonia's secession from Spain.(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez) Manu Fernandez

  • Demonstrators march down Via Layetana street next to the city's major Spanish police station in downtown Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Thousands of people demonstrated against the confiscation of ballot boxes and charges on unarmed civilians during Sunday's referendum, declared illegal by Spain's Constitutional Court, on Catalonia's secession from Spain.(AP Photo/Santi Palacios) Santi Palacios

  • Childhood friends David Jovellar, 24, wearing an 'estelada' or independence flag and Almudena Chueco, 23, wearing a Spanish flag hug as they bumped into each other at a demonstration in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Thousands of people demonstrated against the confiscation of ballot boxes and charges on unarmed civilians during Sunday's referendum on Catalonia's secession from Spain that was previously declared illegal by Spain's Constitutional Court. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) Emilio Morenatti

  • Pro independence trade union workers hold up Catalan pro independence flags in support of the secession referendum, and against alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region’s secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured, in northern Spain on Tuesday. AP

  • A woman holds a Spanish flag to support Spanish police as pro-independence protesters gather in front of the national police headquarters in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups are urging workers to hold partial or full-day strikes throughout Catalonia to protest alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region's secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) Francisco Seco

  • Demonstrators gather in protest in front of Spanish police station in downtown Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups are urging workers to hold partial or full-day strikes and demonstrations throughout Catalonia to protest alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region's secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) Francisco Seco

  • Protesters gather outside National Police Headquarters during a one-day strike in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups are urging workers to hold partial or full-day strikes throughout Catalonia to protest alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region's secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured. (AP Photo/Bob Edme) Bob Edme

  • FILE - This is a Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 file photo of a girl as he grimaces as Spanish National Police pushes away Pro-referendum supporters outside the Ramon Llull school assigned to be a polling station by the Catalan government in Barcelona, Spain. For local teacher Elisa Aroca, Sunday will go down as the day when Spain lost the battle for the hearts and minds of Catalonia. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti/File) Emilio Morenatti

  • A couple, tourists from Switzerland, sunbath at a terrace overlooking Universitat square as demonstrators gather in protest in downtown Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups are urging workers to hold partial or full-day strikes and demonstrations throughout Catalonia to protest alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region's secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured. (AP Photo/Enric Marti) Enric Marti

  • A child wears an "estelada", or Catalonia independent flag, with others in a protest in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups are urging workers to hold partial or full-day strikes and demonstrations throughout Catalonia to protest alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region's secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) Francisco Seco

  • Demonstrators with "estelada", or Catalonia independent flag, gather in protest in front of the Spanish police station in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. Labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups are urging workers to hold partial or full-day strikes and demonstrations throughout Catalonia to protest alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region's secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) Francisco Seco

  • Demonstrators with "estelada", or Catalonia independent flag, gather in protest in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups are urging workers to hold partial or full-day strikes and demonstrations throughout Catalonia to protest alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region's secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) Francisco Seco

  • Catalan boys place flowers at the main gate of Ramon Llull school condemning the National Police attempt to try to stop the voting during the referendum in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 3, 2017. Labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups are urging workers to hold partial or full-day strikes throughout Catalonia to protest alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region's secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) Emilio Morenatti



Associated Press
Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Striking workers, students and hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan towns Tuesday to protest police violence, adding pressure to Spain’s unprecedented political crisis as central authorities mull how to respond to separatists’ plans to push ahead with secession.

Separatist leaders in Catalonia have vowed to declare independence in the northeastern region this week following Sunday’s disputed referendum.

The central government has declared the vote illegal and invalid, but Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has not disclosed what his response to the independence bid will be, or if he intends to go as far as suspending the region’s self-government.

The city’s urban guard said that 700,000 people joined Tuesday afternoon’s marches in Barcelona, after thousands more took part in scattered protests in the morning.

With protesters still in the streets, Spain’s King Felipe VI made a television appearance in the evening and accused authorities in Catalonia of deliberately bending the law and undermining coexistence, adding that the Spanish state has a duty to ensure unity and constitutional order in the country.

“Today, Catalan society is fractured,” Felipe said in his address to the nation, referring to the political crisis as “very serious moments for our democratic life.”

Catalan officials say that 90 percent of the 2.3 million people who voted Sunday were in favor of independence. But fewer than half of those eligible to vote turned out. The vote was boycotted by most of Spain’s national parties on grounds that it was illegal and lacked basic guarantees, such as transparency, a proper census or an independent electoral governing body.

The king’s call for unity and the blame put on the Catalan authorities was interpreted as laying the ground for an upcoming response from Rajoy. The prime minister held talks on Tuesday with national opposition leaders, but no multi-partisan consensus emerged from meetings.

“He made no mention of dialogue, and that’s worrying,” said Victor Lavagnini, a sports journalist who joined protests at the gates of the National Police headquarters in downtown Barcelona. “He seemed nervous, like everybody is, but showed no sensibility toward the injured.”

The strike affected bus and subway services, shops, and schools, and disoriented tourists scrambled to find open cafeterias to avoid the protests.

There were moments of tension when a handful of picketers forced the closure of shops that had remained open in the city’s famed Las Ramblas boulevard, but elsewhere the demonstrations were largely peaceful.

Separatist groups and unions had initially called for strikes to be held in support of Catalan leaders pushing ahead with the independence declaration. But many non-separatists were also drawn to the streets following Sunday’s crackdown on the referendum vote.