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In Spain, Protests Continue in Catalonia

4 MINS READOct 19, 2019 | 03:30 GMT
Protesters in the streets of the Spanish city of Barcelona on Oct. 18, 2019, demonstrate against the recent sentencing of separatist politicians.

Protesters in the streets of the Spanish city of Barcelona on Oct. 18, 2019, demonstrate against the recent sentencing of separatist politicians.

(CLARA MARGAIS/Getty Images)
Highlights
  • Protests related to Catalan independence have been a perennial threat to Barcelona and surrounding areas.
  • Most of Barcelona has remained calm and has escaped the disruptions caused by recent protests.
  • But the protests have been less predictable this time, increasing the risk of injuries and property damage.

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Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont turned himself in to the authorities in Belgium on Oct. 18, Reuters reported. A Brussels court is scheduled to convene on Oct. 29 to begin reviewing Spain's arrest warrant and determining Puigdemont's fate. At the same time, Spanish authorities have ordered the closure of websites and social media platforms associated with Democratic Tsunami. The group has spearheaded the most violent and disruptive protests in Barcelona and the surrounding areas since the Supreme Court handed down prison sentences to former Catalan leaders on Oct. 14. These provocative actions will ensure that the unusually violent demonstrations will continue in the coming week. 

Protests related to Catalan independence have been a perennial threat to Barcelona and surrounding areas.

Protests related to Catalan independence have been a perennial threat to Barcelona and surrounding areas, but this current wave has been more violent than usual. A Stratfor analyst, who is a longtime resident of the city, offers his observations from the ground and outlines why violent demonstrations in Catalonia will continue and will be fueled by additional legal developments.

Observations From Barcelona

  • The protests are focused in downtown Barcelona, particularly in the Eixample neighborhood, but they also occur along the major roads leading into the city. Most neighborhoods haven't been directly affected, and most of the city shows no signs of the demonstrations. Regardless, many companies are having their employees work from home or are sending them home early to avoid protest actions that target transportation. 
  • The image of the Catalan police (Mossos d'Esquadra) also appears to have changed among pro-independence groups. During the independence referendum in 2017, the Mossos were viewed as heroes because they didn't follow orders to close down the schools where the illegal referendum was being held. Now, pro-independence protesters appear to see the police as aligned with the central government and are clashing with them as officers seek to keep them away from major government buildings in central Barcelona. Former Mossos leader Josep Lluis Trapero may have contributed to the change in sentiment by turning on the group of Catalan leaders who faced trial. He criticized them, saying they were being irresponsible. The criticism was viewed somewhat as an abandonment of the independence movement, even though the Mossos never openly supported it in the first place. 
  • Catalans have tended to take pride in the fact that their protests have largely been peaceful, distinguishing themselves from the violence and terrorist tactics of the nearby Basque separatists. But the current violent round tends to be dominated by a young crowd that may be more susceptible to acting irrationally and getting swept up in the "movement." They are not as concerned with deference to authorities and are more likely to partake in violence purely for the sake of it. One aspect of adolescence and youth is impulsiveness, and that appears to be on display in Barcelona protests right now. 
  • During these volatile demonstrations, participants have focused their anger on symbols of the government, but the vandalism has led to hundreds of thousands of euros in damage to public property in Catalonia and especially Barcelona. Protesters haven't targeted private interests or individuals yet, but the longer this unrest drags on, the greater that risk becomes.

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