BARCELONA (Reuters) – Carrying face masks, 1000’s of Catalans on Friday staged dozens of small protests calling for the area’s independence from Spain regardless of warnings from well being officers to keep away from gatherings in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All rallies revered social distancing and had been peaceable besides an unauthorized march within the night in central Barcelona wherein just a few hundred separatist protesters, some with torches, burned a model with Spain’s King Felipe’s face and containers with the logos of Spanish firms and public establishments.
Within the morning, unidentified folks had set fires at a number of factors of Catalonia’s rail community, forcing practice cancellations earlier than site visitors was resumed 4 hours later.
In Catalonia, Sept. 11 marks “La Diada”, the anniversary of the autumn of Barcelona to Spanish forces in 1714, and has been marked lately by main separatist rallies because the pro-independence drive has dominated Spanish politics.
Near 60,000 folks attended static protests throughout the area, in response to grassroots organizer Assemblea Nacional Catalana.
“We’ve held Europe’s largest COVID-adapted protest,” mentioned chairwoman Elisenda Paluzie, referring to the usage of masks, protected distancing and pre-registering of members.
“I can perceive that some folks could possibly be afraid however organising a protest is appropriate with the pandemic,” mentioned 25-year-old internet programmer Marc Purgimon at considered one of Assemblea’s Barcelona rallies. “It is necessary to maintain protesting in opposition to the repression that Catalonia suffers and for independence.”
There have been entry controls to the rally and members needed to stand at marked spots. Many wore shirts with this 12 months’s protest motto “The responsibility to construct a greater future” and waved separatist flags.
Spain has recorded greater than 560,000 instances of the novel coronavirus, greater than every other western European nation.
Manel Capdevila, 59, mentioned he wished to point out the remainder of Spain that the independence motion had not weakened regardless of the well being disaster and divisions between events: “We have to persist and say we need to resolve our future and this is not going to cease.”
The area’s public well being secretary and the pinnacle of a medical doctors’ affiliation had discouraged such gatherings, and the regional separatist authorities didn’t attend the protests.
Catalan authorities spokeswoman Meritxell Budo urged Madrid to conform to a referendum on independence and referred to as for an amnesty for 9 separatist leaders jailed for his or her position in a failed 2017 independence bid and for others who fled Spain then.
The federal government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has dominated out any amnesty or referendum however has backed talks with Barcelona.
“We are going to preserve working to realize reconciliation in Catalonia from a dialogue throughout the structure,” Sanchez tweeted.
Opinion polls present folks in Catalonia are break up on the difficulty of independence. The most recent survey exhibits extra respondents in favour of their area remaining a part of Spain.
Individually, Catalan regional head of presidency Quim Torra on Friday provided to absorb refugees from Greece’s greatest migrant camp destroyed by fireplace on Wednesday.
“The federal government of Catalonia makes itself out there to obtain folks in search of a possibility to flee conflict, starvation and concern,” Torra tweeted.
The Spanish authorities makes the ultimate resolution on admitting refugees.
(Reporting by Joan Faus; Further reporting by Nathan Allen, Graham Keeley and Nacho Doce; Enhancing by Andrei Khalip/Janet Lawrence and Grant McCool)
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