Metro, Roads Disrupted in Catalonia Pro-Independence Protests

Metro, Roads Disrupted in Catalonia Pro-Independence ProtestsMetro, Roads Disrupted in Catalonia Pro-Independence Protests

Metro stations were closed in Barcelona, pickets blocked roads and state workers walked out on Tuesday in protests across Catalonia over a Spanish police crackdown on an independence referendum.

The stoppages, in response to a call for a general strike by pro-independence groups and trade unions, affected the public sector, public transport and basic services, Reuters reported.

The atmosphere in Catalonia has been feverish since the Spanish government sent in police on Sunday to stop an independence referendum, injuring hundreds of people as they tried to vote.

Results showed voters overwhelmingly backed independence in the ballot, which opponents of secession mostly boycotted.

The referendum has plunged Spain into its worst constitutional crisis in decades.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said the vote was valid, raising the prospect that the Catalan parliament could unilaterally declare independence from Spain within days. Puigdemont has also called for international mediation in the region’s dispute with Madrid.

Catalonia, Spain’s wealthiest region, wedged in the northeast on the Mediterranean coast below the mountainous border with France, has its own language and culture, and a growing minority there has nurtured hopes of independence for years. Madrid says the constitution prohibits secession and can only be changed if all Spaniards, not just Catalans, agree.

Catalonia is a center of industry and tourism accounting for a fifth of Spain’s economy. Although it has extensive autonomy, its tax revenues are crucial to Spain’s state budget.

Spanish stocks remained under pressure and the cost of insuring exposure to Spanish sovereign debt rose to a near five-month high, with many economists and investors anticipating an escalation of tensions in the short term.

Thousands of people took part in marches and protests in Barcelona, the regional capital, on Tuesday.

A big crowd gathered outside the local headquarters of Spain’s ruling Popular Party. Catalan firefighters in their orange jackets and yellow helmets, who have assumed a role as mediators between demonstrators and police, stood between the crowd and police.

“In no way can we accept that they come here with this kind of repression,” taxi driver Alejandro Torralbo, 64, said of Sunday’s police action.

“They can’t do this. What happened on Oct. 1 has fired up independence feeling that will never die,” said another demonstrator, 18-year-old student Monica Ventinc.

The Catalan government said almost 900 people were injured when Spanish police forcibly tried to close polling stations.

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