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Flights cancelled, roads closed: What you need to know about the Barcelona protests

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Flights cancelled, roads closed: What you need to know about the Barcelona protests
Protestors clash with police outside El Prat airport on Monday night. Photo: AFP
08:27 CEST+02:00
Protests over the sentencing of Catalan independence leaders to jail terms by Spain’s Supreme Court on Monday forced the cancellation of over a hundred flights in Barcelona’s El Prat airport.

Tens of thousands of travellers had their travel plans disrupted on Monday as protestors converged on the airport in response to lengthy prison terms for sedition handed to nine leaders of the separatists movement.

By Tuesday morning, authorities in Catalonia reported that there were only minor disruptions to train services and that flights were operating as scheduled at El Prat airport. 

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Protests lasted well into the night on Monday, blocking the roads to Barcelona airport as well as bringing trains to a standstill in the city as social media mobilised a spontaneous response to the verdict.

Hundreds of protesters formed a blockade at the airport and hurled stones, rubbish bins, plastic bottles and other objects at the police.

The police responded by repeatedly charging them and firing rounds of foam bullets into the crowd, and the regional emergency services said they treated 131 people for injuries during the protests.

 

The protest at El Prat was announced early Monday afternoon by Tsunami Democràtic (Democratic Tsunami) which continued by calling for action at Barajas airport in Madrid.

According to the group, 1,200 cars blocked the roads leading to Madrid airport, but no incidents were reported.

"There are already thousands of us and we’re being seen all around the world. But there needs to be more of us. Many more," tweeted Tsunami Democràtic. "We need to stop all activity so the world can see this injustice."

At 9 pm, Tsunami Democràtic released a statement read by football coach Pep Guardiola, calling on the international community to take a clear stance on the Catalan independence conflict.

The pro-independence group called off the official protest at the airport of Barcelona at 10pm, but thousands of protesters continued the blockade leading to clashes with police officers.

"We have always chosen peaceful ways (of fighting for what we believe in) but nobody listens. Now we are forced to go down the route of civil disobedience," said Carles Navarro, a 49-year-old IT consultant protesting at El Prat.

"The indignation is just too much and affects too many people. What they don't realise is that we are very angry and we will not stop."   

A huge tailback of hundreds of stationary cars could be seen on the road leading to the airport, with some people getting out to finish the journey on foot. And arrival passengers were also stranded, with no taxis and trains and
metro only working intermittently.   

According to the AENA airports operator, at least 108 flights were cancelled.

 

 

In Girona, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Barcelona, demonstrators also managed to block the high-speed train line from France but the service was restored by Tuesday morning.

So too were local services to the El Prat airport:

 

Several roads were reported to be blocked at first light on Tuesday.

 

'Weeks of mobilisation'

In the evening, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, the region's two biggest grassroots pro-independence groups, also called supporters to a rally. The two groups were responsible for organising some of
the largest separatist protests in recent years.

The coming days look set to be equally unsettled.   

From Wednesday, separatist groups have called for marches throughout the region that will converge in Barcelona on Friday, when unions have called a general strike.

And student groups have pledged to begin their own strike on Wednesday.   

"The only way left for us is disobedience. This week will be all about mobilisation and it will go on for a long time," said Juli Cuellar, a 44-year-old office worker.

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