Catalan protesters have clashed with police in Barcelona today with tensions running high ahead of the first anniversary of the region’s bitterly contested referendum and failed bid for independence.
Separatists threw paint at police, covering vans, roads and anti-riot shields in bright colours in the centre of Barcelona, while officers responded with baton strikes to keep them back.
Earlier, local Catalan police intervened to form a barrier when a separatist threw purple paint on a man who was part of another march of around 100 people in support of Spanish police demanding better pay.
Officers used batons to push back the oncoming separatists – who will mark the first anniversary of the 2017 referendum on Monday – and keep apart the opposing groups.
Separatist protesters clash with Mossos d’Esquadra police officers in fresh demonstrations in Barcelona on Saturday
Catalan police are covered in brightly-coloured paint after clashing with separatist protesters in Barcelona today
Riot police wearing helmets and carrying shields and batons charge protesters during fresh clashes in Barcelona
Separatist protesters throw coloured powder towards Mossos d’Esquadra police officers in Barcelona on Saturday
Officers from the Catalan regional police – Mossos D’Esquadra – covered in paint during clashes in Barcelona today
‘I make a call for calm, this city has always defended that everyone can exercise their rights to free speech,’ Barcelona mayor Ada Colau told Catalunya Radio.
The separatists filled a downtown square in Barcelona, many spending the previous night there, to force the regional government to alter the route of the march by the Spanish police supporters.
Last year’s referendum on secession, organised by Catalan authorities in defiance of Madrid, led to an attempted independence declaration that received no international recognition.
The Yes side won last year’s referendum with 90 per cent of the vote but turnout was below half and the ballot was declared illegal by the Spanish government.
Catalan separatist leaders and activists who pushed it, defying Spain’s constitutional protection of territorial integrity, are either awaiting trial in prison or fled the country.
The referendum was marred when Spanish national police and Civil Guard officers clashed with voters, injuring hundreds.
Two weeks ago police had to intervene to keep apart two separate rallies by Catalan separatists and Spanish unionists in Barcelona, the region’s capital.
Catalonia’s separatist-led government is now asking Spain’s central authorities to authorise a binding vote on secession.
Paint-covered officers stand in a line with their shields after clashing with separatist protesters during a counter-protest
A woman holds a banner demanding ‘freedom for political prisoners’ in front of Catalan regional police
Catalan regional police officers clash with separatist protesters ahead of the first anniversary of a bitter referendum
Riot police clash with separatist protesters during a counter-protest against a demonstration in support of Spanish police
Protesters throw paint and coloured powder at Catalan regional police during Saturday’s clashes in Barcelona