Anti-separatists rally in Barcelona after pro-independence unrest
One of the most prominent figures against independence for the Spanish region of Catalonia staged a counter-protest on Oct. 20 after a week of separatist unrest and called for an end to the violence.
Albert Rivera, head of the pro-unionist Ciudadanos party, told hundreds of flag-waving supporters that Spain's acting Socialist government was not doing enough to end the chaos sparked by the jailing of separatist leaders.
"People can't take their children to school, they can't open their businesses," Barcelona-born Rivera said. "We need a Spanish government that protects the weak."
Pro-independence supporters have taken to the streets of Barcelona for six days running in often violent confrontations with police that have left several hundred injured and caused 2.5 million euros ($2.8 million) of damage.
A policeman and a protester remain in critical condition, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau said on Oct. 20, adding that "several people" had been blinded in one eye by police rubber bullets.
After unprecedented violence on Oct. 18, demonstrations on Oct. 19 passed off relatively peacefully and the government has said it has the situation under control.
"The riots are diminishing, but we are working on stopping them altogether," said the acting interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, in his daily update on the situation.
He told reporters that 288 police officers had been hurt in the clashes, 267 police vehicles damaged and 194 people arrested.
Independence is a highly divisive issue in Catalonia, which is Spain's wealthiest region and has 7.5 million inhabitants. A poll in July 2019 showed backing for secession at its lowest level in two years, with 48.3% of people against and 44% in favour.