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3 Oct 2017

Catalonia went on a huge state-wide strike after police violence at referendum

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Catalonia in a massive general strike today. Motorways were blocked, schools were closed and businesses were halted as workers and students protested against the police violence that left hundreds injured at an independence referendum on Sunday.
People were seen playing chess in the middle of otherwise busy motorways, and walking calmly down dual carriageways as the state was brought to a standstill.

Demonstrators were also seen cheering and clapping for Catalan firefighters, who had protected them from the violence on Sunday by forming a human blockade.

In Barcelona, the state’s capital, bus and metro services were affected by the strike – leaving disoriented tourists scrambling to find places to hunker down and wait it out.

Although there was a moment of tension when a handful of picketers forced some shops to close on Las Ramblas, elsewhere the demonstrations were largely peaceful.

Several labour unions and grassroots pro-independence groups had urged workers throughout Catalona to go on either partial or full-day strikes after the referendum, which the Spanish government has deemed illegal and invalid.

In response to the banned referendum, national police forces were drafted in to violently remove voters from the ballots.

Around 840 voters were injured in the violence, which saw people – including the elderly and children – being hit with rubber bullets, beaten with truncheons, and dragged forcibly away from polling stations.

‘People are angry, very angry,’ Josep Llavina, a 53-year-old protester who had travelled to Barcelona from a nearby town, said.

The regional offices of Spain’s National Police became a focal point for demonstrators, with thousands gathering there at midday and shouting that the police were an ‘occupying force’.

‘They brought violence with them,’ Llavina said of the police.

‘They have beaten people who were holding their hands up. How can we not be outraged?’ According to Catalan officials, 90% of the 2.3million people who were able to vote on Sunday were in favour of independence.

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