Increasingly violent protests continue to rage in the Catalonia region of Spain, with unrest bringing Barcelona to a standstill for a second day, after some 500,000 pro-independence marchers converged on the city Friday from other towns and the countryside, following nearly a week of ongoing protests against Monday's supreme court verdict sentencing at least nine Catalan independence leaders to between 9 and 13 years in prison.
Overnight Friday police used riot control measures, including water cannons and rubber bullets in attempts to disperse the large crowds, which according to the Associated Press were "throwing cobblestones and flammable bottles, building barricades and setting dozens of bonfires in large garbage bins.”
As the clearest sign of growing violence in the protests, state sources cited around 400 people injured by the end of this week of growing chaos in the streets, many of them police officers.
According to some estimates around 100 security personnel have suffered injuries; however, police were in a number of instances caught on video brutally beating demonstrators.
Friday's riots were the worst since smaller protests began in the immediate aftermath of Monday's court sentencing.
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau made an urgent public appeal for calm: "This cannot continue. Barcelona does not deserve it," she said on Saturday.
Some protest organizers have blamed 'infiltrators' who they say by and large have been responsible for upping the violence against police and acts of vandalism.
Catalan interior chief and police authority Miquel Buch told the AP, "The images of organized violence during the night in Barcelona have overshadowed the half a million people who demonstrated in a peaceful and civic manner to show they rejected the verdict."
Barcelona's streets looked like a 'war zone' into the weekend, with no sign that the unrest will let up.
It was announced by Madrid authorities on Friday that Spain's civil guard had been deployed to Barcelona streets. The civil guard is essentially a militarized police force which has authority to deploy across the whole country.
Shocking footage showing increasingly aggressive tactics against activists by Spanish police appears to only be escalating the violent reactions among young people in the streets.
La policia española lleva 5 dias reprimiendo en Cataluña. Cada dia cientos de imágenes de violencia cada dia. Un -muy pequeño resumen- de lo que está pasando en las calles de Barcelona. El Gobierno teme que esto se vea fuera de España. Ayúdanos a difundir. pic.twitter.com/22011HERqW— Albano-Dante Fachin (@AlbanoDante76) October 19, 2019
This dramatic move to give federal bolstering to the local police came after some 20 major roads in Barcelona were blocked by the sheer size of protesting crowds, and as local police couldn't bring the unrest under control.
Multiple viral social media videos showed police in some cases beating protesters over the head with batons.
Spanish cops beat Catalan demonstrators with no reason. This is pure hate. They appear, hit and leave. pic.twitter.com/gu0hK8KHHR— Help Catalonia 🎗 (@CataloniaHelp2) October 19, 2019
Home to about 7.5 million people, the wealthy and linguistically distinct Catalonia region has its own parliament, flag, and distinct history; however, Catalan nationalists have long complained Madrid over-taxes the region for the sake of Spain's poorer regions and cities.
The region is responsible for up to a fifth of Spain's gross domestic product, by far the biggest share, which has translated into its leaders long seeking greater autonomy from Madrid.