Nearly 200 injured in police clashes with Catalan separatists

A protesters uses a sling during clashes with police in Barcelona on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Around half a million people had rallied in Barcelona on Friday in the biggest gathering since Monday’s court ruling on Catalan’s independence. (AP)
Updated 19 October 2019

Nearly 200 injured in police clashes with Catalan separatists

  • Emergency services had already reported 500 injured since Monday even before the latest clashes erupted
  • Early Saturday, the air in the Catalan capital was still heavy with a burning stench

BARCELONA: Nearly 200 people were hurt in another night of violent clashes in Catalonia, authorities said Saturday, after radical separatists hurled rocks and fireworks at police who responded with teargas and rubber bullets.
In Barcelona, which resembled a chaotic battleground Friday, 152 people were injured, with dozens more hurt in the rest of Catalonia, taking the total to 182.
The deterioration came on the fifth consecutive day of protests in the Catalan capital and elsewhere over a Spanish court’s jailing of nine separatist leaders on sedition charges over a failed independence bid two years ago.
Emergency services had already reported 500 injured since Monday even before the latest clashes erupted.
According to the interior ministry, 83 people were detained in the overnight violence, in addition to the 128 arrests police had reported before Friday’s march.
Early Saturday, the air in the Catalan capital was still heavy with a burning stench as municipal workers cleared the streets of broken glass, rocks and rubber bullets, and repaired pavements where bricks had been ripped out.
Around half a million people had rallied in Barcelona on Friday in the biggest gathering since Monday’s court ruling as separatists also called a general strike in the major tourist destination.
While most marchers appeared peaceful, hordes of young protesters went on the rampage near the police headquarters, igniting a huge blaze that sent plumes of black smoke into the air, as police fired teargas to disperse them, an AFP correspondent said.
Other fires raged near Plaza de Catalunya at the top of the tourist hotspot Las Ramblas, where hundreds of demonstrators rallied in defiance of the police, who tried to disperse them with water cannon.
“Anti-fascist Catalonia!” they roared. “The streets will always be ours!”
Scores of police vans could be seen fanning out around the streets, their sirens screaming as the regional police warned people in a message in English on Twitter “not to approach” the city center.
Earlier, many thousands of “freedom marchers,” who had set out to walk from five regional towns on Wednesday, arrived in Barcelona wearing walking boots and carrying hiking poles.
The rally coincided with the general strike, prompting the cancelation of flights, the closure of shops, business and several top tourist attractions, and slowing public transport to a trickle in a region that accounts for about a fifth of Spain’s economic output.
Activists also cut off Catalonia’s main cross-border highway with France.
In downtown Barcelona, many shops and luxury outlets were closed on the city’s Paseo de Gracia, with blackened, charred patches a testimony to the nightly clashes that have raged since Monday.
“With these demonstrations bringing this large city to a halt, we are using Barcelona like a microphone,” said 23-year-old engineering student Ramon Pararada.
“It’s all in reaction to the injustice,” he said.
Retired lawyer Jaume Enrich said the court sentence was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“Madrid is putting Spanish unity above everything, including basic rights,” he said, wearing a badge saying “No surrender.”
Spain’s top tourist destination, the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona closed as protesters massed outside, and the Liceu opera house canceled Friday night’s performance.
With the region mired in chaos, football authorities canceled the Barcelona and Real Madrid Clasico set for October 26 at the Camp Nou stadium. Both clubs had reportedly refused an offer to hold the match in Madrid.
And Manchester City’s Catalan manager Pep Guardiola, an outspoken campaigner for the independence movement, urged European intervention to ease the crisis.
“The international community must help us to solve the conflict between Catalonia and Spain,” he said. “Some mediator from outside (must) help us sit (down) and talk.”
The Supreme Court’s explosive decision has thrust the Catalan dispute to the heart of the political debate as Spain heads toward a fourth election in as many years, which will be held on November 10.


India reports over 8,000 new coronavirus cases

Updated 31 May 2020

India reports over 8,000 new coronavirus cases

  • Confirmed infections have risen to 182,143, with 5,164 fatalities

NEW DELHI: India reported more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus in a single day, another record high that topped the deadliest week in the country.
Confirmed infections have risen to 182,143, with 5,164 fatalities, including 193 in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Sunday.
Overall, more than 60 percent of the virus fatalities have been reported from only two states — Maharashtra, the financial hub, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new cases are largely concentrated in six Indian states, including the capital New Delhi.
Public health experts have criticized the Modi government’s handling of the outbreak. A joint statement by the Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and Indian Association of Epidemiologists, which was sent to Modi’s office on May 25, said it was “unrealistic” to eliminate the virus at a time when “community transmission is already well-established.”
India has denied of any community transmission even though new cases have continued to mount significantly.
The health experts said that the infections were rising exponentially despite the “draconian lockdown,” which began March 25.
The restrictions have slowly been relaxed, with the government announcing Saturday a phased “Unlock 1” plan from June onwards that allows more economic activities. The restrictions in so-called containment zones — areas that have been isolated due to the outbreaks — will remain through June 30.
Modi, who addressed the nation through his monthly radio program on Sunday, said India was faring better than other countries.
India has a fatality rate of 2.8 percent.
There are concerns that the virus may be spreading through India’s villages as millions of jobless migrant workers return home from cities during the lockdown. Experts warn that the pandemic is yet to peak in India.