Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Catalonia referendum: Barcelona grinds to a halt as streets fill with people protesting police actions

An empty street near the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Credit: PA

Barcelona has ground to a halt workers and students joined strikes and took to the streets of Catalonia to protest the use of force by police dduring Sunday's disputed independence referendum.

Several thousand Catalans descended upon the Barcelona headquarters of Spain's National Police, where bus and subway services were stopped and disorientated tourists scrambled to find open cafeterias to avoid the protests.

The mass demonstration of anger, which saw police accused of being an "occupying force", came as small unions and independence groups urged workers throughout Catalonia to go on strike.

Thousands gathered with many flying their 'esteladas', the Catalonia independence flags. Credit: AP

The region's leaders are considering whether to declare independence, two days after the vote - deemed illegal before it began by the Spanish government - that turned violent.

"People are angry, very angry," said protester Josep Llavina, a 53-year-old self-employed worker, who joined crowds in filling empty boulevards closed off by police.

Protesters threw referendum ballots into the air during the city street demonstration. Credit: AP

"(The police) brought violence with them. They have beaten people who were holding their hands up. How can we not be outraged?"

ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy photographed a yoga class and football game on one of the city's otherwise deserted main streets.

Sorry, this content isn't available on your device.

Demonstrators were also due to focus on polling stations where police acted with force to try to prevent Sunday's poll being held.

Port workers and firefighters also joined in demonstrations, though the strike was not backed by Spain's two main unions.

The central government in Madrid is blaming Catalan separatist politicians and grassroots groups for the violence, saying they "plotted to break the law" and drew citizens to an unlawful vote.

Striking firefighters joined protesters outside the Spanish government delegation. Credit: AP

More than 890 civilians were treated for injuries following Sunday's internationally condemned clashes, in which police used batons and fired rubber bullets.

Spain's Interior Ministry said 431 National Police and Civil Guard agents were injured too.

Despite criticism of the police action the European Union and most governments have backed Spain's stance in its most serious political crisis in decades.