Masked demonstrators clash with riot police as HALF A MILLION take to the streets of Barcelona

Barcelona has been flooded with an estimated half a million angry demonstrators waving pro-independence flags as protests over the jailing of Catalan separatist leaders roll into their fifth day.   

While the vast majority of the rallies were peaceful, a few hundred masked youths clashed with Spanish police in the heart of the city late in the afternoon on Friday, blocking a broad boulevard with burning garbage bins and hurling rocks at the security forces.

One elderly man appeared to have had enough of the unrest and boldly confronted masked demonstrators while waving what appears to be a baton, as the demonstrators set up street barricades around him.  

Some of the protesters even appear to cower away from the man as he lunges at them with the black baton. 

The unrest was sparked on Monday as the Spanish Supreme Court decided to jail nine separatist leaders for their role in a 2017 independence referendum banned by Madrid and a short-lived declaration of independence.  

A protester stands next to a burning barricade during clashes near police headquarters in Barcelona on Friday, October 18

A protester stands next to a burning barricade during clashes near police headquarters in Barcelona on Friday, October 18

A protester stands next to a burning barricade during clashes near police headquarters in Barcelona on Friday, October 18 

Protester waves pro-independence flag, an unofficial flag used by Catalan independence supporters

Protester waves pro-independence flag, an unofficial flag used by Catalan independence supporters

Protester waves pro-independence flag, an unofficial flag used by Catalan independence supporters 

An injured police officer is assisted by his colleagues on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders

An injured police officer is assisted by his colleagues on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders

An injured police officer is assisted by his colleagues on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders 

Man speaks with protesters during Catalonia's general strike on Friday

Man speaks with protesters during Catalonia's general strike on Friday

Man speaks with protesters during Catalonia’s general strike on Friday 

Barcelona has been flooded with an estimated half a million angry demonstrators waving pro-independence flags as protests over the jailing of Catalan separatist leaders roll into their fifth day

Barcelona has been flooded with an estimated half a million angry demonstrators waving pro-independence flags as protests over the jailing of Catalan separatist leaders roll into their fifth day

Barcelona has been flooded with an estimated half a million angry demonstrators waving pro-independence flags as protests over the jailing of Catalan separatist leaders roll into their fifth day

One elderly man appeared to have had enough of the unrest and boldly confronted masked demonstrators while waving what appears to be a baton

One elderly man appeared to have had enough of the unrest and boldly confronted masked demonstrators while waving what appears to be a baton

One elderly man appeared to have had enough of the unrest and boldly confronted masked demonstrators while waving what appears to be a baton

The masked demonstrators continued to set up street barricades around the old man

The masked demonstrators continued to set up street barricades around the old man

The masked demonstrators continued to set up street barricades around the old man 

Some of the protesters even appear to cower away from the man as he lunges at them with the black baton

Some of the protesters even appear to cower away from the man as he lunges at them with the black baton

Some of the protesters even appear to cower away from the man as he lunges at them with the black baton

Bystanders fled to the safety of shop doorways as police vans tried and failed to clear the road and police in full riot gear fired smoke grenades towards the rioters.

A crowd of protesters hurled stones and cans at police in riot gear, and dragged large garbage bins to the middle of a main city boulevard, and set them ablaze. Police vans tried but failed to push people back onto the pavements. 

Roads leading into the city were packed as marchers from across the region joined a mass rally against this week’s verdict by Spain’s Supreme Court, which sentenced nine separatists to jail over a failed, 2017 secessionist bid.

The ruling set off the worst sustained street violence Spain has seen in decades, with anger running high in Catalonia. Unions in the wealthy region called for a general strike on Friday and students boycotted classes for a third day running.

Police estimated some 525,000 people joined the marches.

Spanish interior minister Fernando Grande-Mariaska warned: ‘Throughout this week there have been violent incidents in Catalonia. They have been organised by groups who are a minority but are very organised. 

‘Their actions will not go unpunished.’  

Protesters throw objects close to a burning barricade near the police headquarters in Barcelona on Friday

Protesters throw objects close to a burning barricade near the police headquarters in Barcelona on Friday

Protesters throw objects close to a burning barricade near the police headquarters in Barcelona on Friday 

A Catalan pro-independence protester throws a stone during clashes with police

A Catalan pro-independence protester throws a stone during clashes with police

A Catalan pro-independence protester throws a stone during clashes with police 

Protesters wave the Estelada pro0 -independence flags during a demonstration in Barcelona

Protesters wave the Estelada pro0 -independence flags during a demonstration in Barcelona

Protesters wave the Estelada pro0 -independence flags during a demonstration in Barcelona 

An elderly man confronts masks demonstrators on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona

An elderly man confronts masks demonstrators on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona

An elderly man confronts masks demonstrators on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona 

Police fire a weapon to disperse the crowds during a mass general strike in Catalonia on Friday

Police fire a weapon to disperse the crowds during a mass general strike in Catalonia on Friday

Police fire a weapon to disperse the crowds during a mass general strike in Catalonia on Friday 

Riot police stand next to a flaming barricade as mass protests ravage the city

Riot police stand next to a flaming barricade as mass protests ravage the city

Riot police stand next to a flaming barricade as mass protests ravage the city 

Police officers stand in front of fire as protesters call a general strike following a week of unrest of the jail sentences given to separatist politicians by Spain's Supreme Court

Police officers stand in front of fire as protesters call a general strike following a week of unrest of the jail sentences given to separatist politicians by Spain's Supreme Court

Police officers stand in front of fire as protesters call a general strike following a week of unrest of the jail sentences given to separatist politicians by Spain’s Supreme Court 

Police officers run past burning barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a  dozen Catalan independence leaders

Police officers run past burning barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a  dozen Catalan independence leaders

Police officers run past burning barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a  dozen Catalan independence leaders 

The interior ministry has dispatched police reinforcements to the Mediterranean city, which is a major tourist magnet, and warned that troublemakers would be swiftly dealt with.

‘Throughout this week, as you well know, there have been violent incidents in Catalonia. They have been organised … by groups who are a minority but are very organised,’ Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told a news conference. ‘Their actions, as we have already said, will also not go unpunished.’

Pro-separatists set off on foot from across the region on Wednesday and flowed into Barcelona throughout the day, many with flags draped over their shoulders.

Locals applauded as the marchers strode past chanting ‘freedom for political prisoners’.

Protesters set up a barricade as thousands of people take part in one of the so-called 'Marches for Freedom' in Barcelona

Protesters set up a barricade as thousands of people take part in one of the so-called 'Marches for Freedom' in Barcelona

Protesters set up a barricade as thousands of people take part in one of the so-called ‘Marches for Freedom’ in Barcelona 

Police officers arrest a young protester during a mass demonstration organised by separatists

Police officers arrest a young protester during a mass demonstration organised by separatists

Police officers arrest a young protester during a mass demonstration organised by separatists 

Protesters face police members as they take part in one of the so-called 'Marches for Freedom' in Barcelona on Friday

Protesters face police members as they take part in one of the so-called 'Marches for Freedom' in Barcelona on Friday

Protesters face police members as they take part in one of the so-called ‘Marches for Freedom’ in Barcelona on Friday  

Protester drapes himself in the Estelada, an unofficial flag typically flown by Catalan independence supporters

Protester drapes himself in the Estelada, an unofficial flag typically flown by Catalan independence supporters

Protester drapes himself in the Estelada, an unofficial flag typically flown by Catalan independence supporters

‘We have always been peaceful people, but you get to a point where you get treated in such a way that people are getting angry,’ said Carlota Llacuna, a 19-year old student from the Maresca region near Barcelona. ‘They put our leaders in prison.’

One of the main ringleaders, Catalonia’s former chief Carles Puigdemont, has so far escaped trial after he fled to Belgium in 2017 when the independence drive was thwarted.

Spain this week renewed its bid to get him extradited and he was briefly detained by Belgian police on Friday before a judge ordered his release pending a decision on the Spanish arrest warrant. A court is meant to hear the case on Oct. 29. 

Several main streets in Barcelona were closed to traffic because of Friday’s marches, while regional trains and the city’s metro were running on a reduced timetable.

Barcelona’s main landmark, the multi-spired Sagrada Familia cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi, was closed due to the protests, an official told Reuters.

Police advance towards rioters on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders

Police advance towards rioters on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders

Police advance towards rioters on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders 

Protesters set up a barricade as thousands of people take part in one of the so-called 'Marches for Freedom' in Barcelona

Protesters set up a barricade as thousands of people take part in one of the so-called 'Marches for Freedom' in Barcelona

Protesters set up a barricade as thousands of people take part in one of the so-called ‘Marches for Freedom’ in Barcelona 

Protesters set up a barricade as thousands of people take part in the so-called 'March for Freedom'

Protesters set up a barricade as thousands of people take part in the so-called 'March for Freedom'

Protesters set up a barricade as thousands of people take part in the so-called ‘March for Freedom’ 

Riot police stand guard during Catalonia's general strike in Barcelona on October 18

Riot police stand guard during Catalonia's general strike in Barcelona on October 18

Riot police stand guard during Catalonia’s general strike in Barcelona on October 18 

Riot police stand guard next to a burning barricade during Catalonia's general strike

Riot police stand guard next to a burning barricade during Catalonia's general strike

Riot police stand guard next to a burning barricade during Catalonia’s general strike 

The Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) said in a statement on that Barcelona’s Oct. 26 home match against Real Madrid, which is known as ‘el clasico’ and is one of the biggest rivalries in world sport, had been postponed due to security concerns.

Barcelona’s El Prat airport cancelled 57 flights on Friday, airport operator Aena said.

Barcelona town hall said 700 garbage containers had been set ablaze since protests began on Monday and estimated that the city had suffered damage totalling more than 1.5 million euros ($1.67 million).

In an apparent effort to hamper the protesters, a Spanish judge ordered on Friday the closure of web pages linked to a pro-independence group, Democratic Tsunami, which has been deftly directing its followers to various demonstrations.

Protesters create a barricade as a general strike is called following a week of protests

Protesters create a barricade as a general strike is called following a week of protests

Protesters create a barricade as a general strike is called following a week of protests 

Protesters stand behind trash containers used as barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders

Protesters stand behind trash containers used as barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders

Protesters stand behind trash containers used as barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders 

Riot police detain a protester during Catalonia's general strike in Barcelona

Riot police detain a protester during Catalonia's general strike in Barcelona

Riot police detain a protester during Catalonia’s general strike in Barcelona 

A Catalan demonstrator runs  during clashes at Catalonia's general strike in Barcelona

A Catalan demonstrator runs  during clashes at Catalonia's general strike in Barcelona

A Catalan demonstrator runs  during clashes at Catalonia’s general strike in Barcelona 

Police officers run past burning barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona

Police officers run past burning barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona

Police officers run past burning barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona 

However, as soon as its site was shuttered, the group migrated its homepage to a new url, sidestepping the ruling.

Democratic Tsunami is a new, secretive group that emerged in September and has drawn thousands of followers on both its website and social media.

Although it says it is committed to non-violent protests, many young demonstrators have battled police over the past three nights in Barcelona in scenes reminiscent of the some of the urban unrest that has rocked France over the past year.

Catalonia is a semi-autonomous region with some 7.5 million inhabitants, who have their own language, parliament and flag. It is Spain’s wealthiest region.

Independence is a highly divisive issue, with a poll in July showing backing for secession in the region at its lowest level in two years, with 48.3% of people against and 44% in favour.

A protester uses a sling shot to throw a firecracker at police during clashes in Barcelona

A protester uses a sling shot to throw a firecracker at police during clashes in Barcelona

A protester uses a sling shot to throw a firecracker at police during clashes in Barcelona 

National police officers shoot rubber bullets to protesters during clashes

National police officers shoot rubber bullets to protesters during clashes

National police officers shoot rubber bullets to protesters during clashes 

Riot police stand guard next to two police vans during Catalonia’s general strike in Barcelona 

 

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