The three-day ‘Marches For Freedom’ in support of Catalonia’s pro-independence leaders converged on the region’s capital on Friday in a show of force that brought over half a million protesters together.
The marches took off Wednesday from five cities across Catalonia to denounce a Spanish court verdict that handed 9 pro-independence leaders long jail terms for organising a referendum on independence in 2017.
The marches coincided with a general strike called by pro-independence trade unions. A third of the region’s factories and half of the businesses have shuttered their doors in solidarity. Even the Sagrada Familia basilica, one of the city’s main tourist attractions was shut down.
Universities and schools remained empty as thousands took to the streets to voice their anger at the verdict of Spain’s Supreme Court.
The strike follows five days of violent clashes between riot police and protesters. Many have been arrested across the region and many more were injured on both sides.
Pro-independence protesters believe the Spanish State is bent on crushing their movement.
In October 2017, Catalonia called for a general strike to protest the heavy-handed police attempt to prevent people from voting in a referendum declared illegal by Spain’s courts. Two years on, the president of Catalonia, Quim Torra, has proposed holding a new referendum on independence.
Catalonia’s pro-independence movement has largely been peaceful over the past seven years but a recent string of violent attacks involving the use of petrol bombs and fire barricades is calling that into question.
While the general strike may have given the independence movement an opportunity to unite and flex a muscle, it puts an extra strain on the region’s economy and may send the wrong signal to investors and businesses on Catalonia.