Protests Erupt in Barcelona Over Arrests of Independence Leaders

A pro-independence Catalan flag sits on the grass, as demonstrators gather outside the Catalonian Parliament to protest against the decision of a judge to jail ex-members of the Catalan government, in Barcelona, Spain. // Photo by AP Photo/Manu Fernandez via Newscred

Protests erupted in St. James’ Square in central Barcelona Thursday night over the arrest of several independence leaders, in the latest development in the ongoing Catalonia independence crisis.

The BBC reports that pro-independence protestors gathered in St. James’ Square, between the Generalitat, the regional executive government, and City Hall. While the regional government has been taken over by Spain’s central government in Madrid, City Hall has not. So far eight politicians have been imprisoned over charges stemming from the independence crisis, as well as two activists who were taken into custody in early October.

According to the Chicago Tribune, former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four separatist allies were released in Brussels following a judge’s ruling. The five leaders are required to stay in Belgium and attend court sessions within two weeks. 

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According to The Guardian, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called for snap regional elections on December 21 as part of the response to the crisis. Puigdemont told reporters that he would respect the results of the elections.

Tourism organizations have started to see preliminary signs that the unrest is impacting interest in travel to Barcelona. AARP Travel reports that Spanish tourism association Exceltur has seen tourism activity drop by 15 percent since the October 1 referendum that precipitated the crisis. Similarly, ForwardKeys has reported that international flight booking to the region have fallen 17 percent year over year since the start of October.

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