Catalan protesters attempt to block transport to mark referendum anniversary

Catalan separatist protesters block the tracks of high speed train as they mark the first anniversary of Catalonia's banned independence referendum in Girona, Spain, October 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jon Nazca



BARCELONA: Hundreds of protesters attempted to block roads and train tracks in the Spanish region of Catalonia on Monday while students marched in Barcelona to mark the one-year anniversary of an ill-fated referendum on independence from Spain.

In Sant Julia de Ramis, regional leaders gave speeches and people queued to re-enact the vote that was banned by Madrid and the courts for being against Spain’s constitution.

A year ago, the village saw violent clashes between riot police and those attempting to vote.

“The first of October will be the seed of the republic,” said regional parliament speaker Roger Torrent, speaking on a platform backed with a slogan reading ‘Oct. 1: do not forget or forgive’.

In the town of Girona, protesters attempted to shut a train station by sitting on the tracks and laying out the Catalan regional flag on the tracks, video footage showed. Protesters also laid out tires along a motorway to impede traffic.

Six people were arrested in Barcelona on Saturday after pro-independence protesters clashed with riot police, and as thousands joined rival demonstrations to mark the first anniversary of the polarizing vote.

The protests were much smaller than last year and demonstrators later called off the attempted blockages. Traffic was circulating normally around Barcelona’s main streets, municipal police said.

Madrid imposed direct rule on Catalonia after it declared independence following the vote. Regional elections later reinstated parties favoring a split with Spain, although the popular vote went to those wanting to remain part of it.

Polls in Catalonia show a fairly even split between those who favor remaining in Spain and those who want independence.

Maria del Mar Lladro, 55, walking her dog in a Barcelona park on Monday said she didn’t support the independence movement and said others like her were often ignored.

“There are a lot of us but we don’t make much noise. It could be seen badly, you could be singled out,” she said.