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Wednesday 4th
posted by Morning Star in World

Hundreds of thousands on streets as protests against Madrid grow

CATALONIA came to a near-standstill yesterday as workers staged a general strike in protest at police brutality during Sunday’s independence referendum.

Some 300,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona, police said, after trade unions and separatist groups urged workers to go on partial or full-day strikes.

Almost 900 people were injured on Sunday when riot police unleashed mayhem in an attempt to stop the referendum — deemed illegal by the Spanish government — from taking place.

Bus and metro services were affected in Barcelona yesterday, while more than 50 road blocks caused huge traffic jams across the city.

Tourist attractions including the Segrada Familia cathedral were also closed as well as schools, universities and medical services.  

Although most demonstrations were peaceful, tensions erupted on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas boulevard as picketers forced the closure of some shops that had remained open.

Thousands also gathered outside the Barcelona headquarters of the national police, shouting that the service was an "occupying force" and urging conservative People’s Party Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to resign.

Ninety per cent of the more than two million people who voted on Sunday plumped for independence, although turnout was low at below 50 per cent.

The federal government’s senior representative in Catalonia Enric Millo blamed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his government for the violence, saying: "Nothing of this would have happened if the government hadn't declared itself in rebellion.”

Mr Puigdemont said on Monday that he was not seeking a “traumatic break” with Spain but wanted a new understanding with the central government.

But the Spanish government later warned that it might suspend the autonomy of the north-eastern region.