Tens of thousands of Catalans congregated in Barcelona on Monday to mark the first anniversary of the region’s unilateral and illegal independence referendum as groups of pro-independence activists blocked roads, motorways and a high-speed rail line and surrounded the Catalan parliament. Police in the city estimated that about 180,000 people took part in a rally in the city on Monday evening. Tensions flared between police and protesters as some hardline demonstrators jumped over barriers at the entrance to the parliament. There were similar scenes outside the Barcelona headquarters of Spain’s national police. Crowds of students filled the city’s central square on Monday afternoon, waving yellow, red and blue separatist flags and chanting “1 October, no forgiving, no forgetting”. Nearby, others let off smoke bombs and fireworks.
The huge rallies came after members of the grassroots Committees for the Defence of the Republic occupied streets in Barcelona and Lleida and the motorways to Madrid and France. They also obstructed the train line between Figueres, Girona and Barcelona but services were restored by 10am local time.
In Girona, protesters stormed a government office, tearing down the Spanish flag and replacing it with the pro-independence estelada (starred) banner.
Catalonia’s nationalist president, Quim Torra, made a symbolic visit to a polling station in the small town of Sant Julià de Ramis, where police prevented his predecessor Carles Puigdemont from voting last October.