Catalan unrest makes separatist conflict 'visible': grassroots group

Barcelona (AFP) –


Violent protests that erupted across Catalonia after nine separatist leaders were jailed this month makes conflict over the region's place within Spain "visible" worldwide, a leading separatist said Monday.

"The world is like that. It is these incidents which get us continuously in the international press, that is to say, that make the conflict visible," said Elisenda Paluzie, head of the influential grassroots Catalan separatist organisation ANC.

"Obviously this can have negative and positive aspects," she added in an interview with Catalan public television.

The streets of Barcelona and other Catalan cities were rocked by demonstrations for several days after Spain's Supreme Court on October 14 sentenced the nine leaders, mostly former members of the Catalan regional government, to prison terms of up to 13 years for sedition over a failed 2017 independence bid.

Demonstrators set fire to cars and garbage bins and threw rocks, Molotov cocktails and steel balls at police, who responded with batons and rubber bullets.

Around 600 people were injured in the protests from October 14 to 18, almost half of them police officers.

Thousands of separatists clashed with police again in central Barcelona Saturday just hours after 350,000 demonstrators held a peaceful march to protest the sentences that was organised by ANC and another powerful independence group, Omnium.

Paluzie called for a "constant mobilisation" by Catalan separatists to "wear down" the Spanish state.

"Its about weakening the pillars of power of the state in Catalonia," she said in the interview.

The ANC and Omnium have staged many rallies in favour of Catalan independence in recent years, but they have been overshadowed since the Supreme Court ruling.

More radical separatist groups such as the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) have blocked roads and railways, while the Democratic Tsunami blocked access to Barcelona airport the day the sentences were handed down.

In a sign of how divided Catalonia is over independence, 80,000 people marched through the streets of Barcelona on Sunday for Spanish unity.

A poll published in July by a public Catalan institute showed support for an independent Catalonia at its lowest level in two years: 48.3 percent of people against and 44 percent in favour.