The cause of Catalan independence surged in October 2017, when voters defied Madrid and voted in a banned independence referendum despite indiscriminate violence and rubber-bullet fire from police, who had earlier seized the ballot boxes (the independence movement had wisely procured a backup set of boxes just in case. The referendum led to a declaration of independence, and the central government responded by imposing direct rule and arresting the movement's leaders (the ruling coalition was trounced at the polls a few months later).
Now, Catalan independence is surging again, on the news that the movement's leaders are to serve long prison sentences for "sedition": more than 500,000 people marching in Barcelona to inaugurate a general strike that has paralyzed the city. The protests were largely peaceful, though a few protesters were arrested for property damage, and earlier protests were characterized by police as "riots."
Speaking in Brussels, acting Spanish Prime Minster Pedro Sánchez warned that those who caused disturbances would face justice.
"There is no space for impunity in relation to the serious acts of violence we have witnessed over recent days in different cities in Catalonia," he said.
Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Spain's acting interior minister, said there had been nearly 130 arrests since trouble broke out across Catalonia five days ago. He warned that rioters faced up to six years in prison.
What is the latest?
Masked protesters confronted officers near the national police headquarters in Barcelona late on Friday, throwing stones and cans at lines of officers in riot gear. Rubbish bins were dragged into the streets and set alight.
Catalonia protests: Marches and general strike paralyse Barcelona [BBC]
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