THOUSANDS of workers demonstrated outside the Barcelona headquarters of Spain’s national police force on Tuesday amid strikes in protest at police violence during the Catalonia referendum.
As Madrid comes under international pressure to resolve its worst political crisis in decades, the crowd chanted “independence”, calling Spanish police an “occupying force” and urging them to leave the region.
Barcelona’s municipal police said about 15,000 people had stopped traffic as they rallied, many draping the blue, yellow and red Estelada flag used by Catalan separatists, shouting: “The streets will always be ours.”
Roads across the region were blocked, including motorways used for commercial traffic to and from France.
The protest came after several small labour unions and grass-roots, pro-independence groups, had urged workers throughout Catalonia to strike.
“An attack on democracy without precedent in recent times calls for a united response,” said Javier Pacheco, Catalonia’s Secretary General of the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) union.
Schools and universities were shut, and most small businesses were closed after the unions called them to “vigorously condemn” the cops’ referendum response.
Metro stations in Barcelona were deserted, although response to the strike call was patchy elsewhere.
“People are very angry,” said Josep Llavina, 53, a self-employed worker. “The police brought violence with them. They have beaten people who were holding their hands up. How can we not be outraged?”
Across the Catalan capital, schools and businesses closed down, and Barcelona FC closed its La Masia training ground and Camp Nou offices for the day.
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