Pro-independence protesters in Catalonia block roads, railway line

The president of Catalonia’s regional government Quim Torra (4L) and the speaker of the Catalan parliament Roger Torrent (3L) attended a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the banned referendum (AFP pic)

BARCELONA: Pro-independence protesters obstructed major roads and a high-speed railway line in Spain’s Catalonia region on Monday, one year after a banned referendum on secession that was marred by police violence.

Hundreds of activists, many covering their faces with scarves, occupied high-speed railway tracks in Girona, north of the Catalan capital of Barcelona.

Central streets in Barcelona and Lleida were blocked, as was the AP-7 motorway which leads to the French border, and A2 linking Barcelona to Madrid, images on Catalan TV showed.

The high-speed rail service linking Figueres, Girona and Barcelona “was interrupted” since the “tracks in Girona are occupied,” Spanish state-owned rail operator Renfe said on Twitter.

The protests were called online by a grassroots group calling itself the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDRs), founded to help stage last year’s banned referendum and now demanding a clean break with the Spanish state.

The group tweeted a picture of a red, yellow and blue Catalan separatist flag on the track of the station in Girona as protesters stood around it.

Twenty-four people were injured and six detained on Saturday during a rally — and a counter-demonstration — in Barcelona by police paying tribute to colleagues deployed to prevent the 2017 Catalan independence referendum.

The Catalan government, then led by Carles Puigdemont, on October 1, 2017, pushed ahead with a referendum on independence for the region despite it having been deemed illegal by the Spanish courts. The vote was marred by a violent police crackdown on polling stations.

Even if it was illegal and therefore non-binding, 2.3 million people cast their ballots out of 5.5 million eligible voters, 90% of whom voted to break from Spain. Opponents of independence largely boycotted the vote.

After the Catalan government declared independence on October 27, Madrid swiftly sacked the Catalan government, prompting several key figures to flee abroad, including Puigdemont. Others were jailed.