Catalonia shuts down and hits the streets in protest over October 1 crackdown

Massive demonstrations throughout Catalonia against police violence

Catalonia woke up today with a different face. From first light it was easy to see that the general shutdown called by the Table for Democracy against police repression on October 1st would have a very strong following. It was also clear that it would be highly visible because, unlike work-related strikes, which are concentrated in industrial areas, this time the most visible effects were seen in small neighborhood business, small and medium-sized companies, and the public sector, which includes education and culture. The shutdown was also complete at Mercabarna and in infrastructures such as the port of Barcelona. In contrast, some of the large industrial factories such as SEAT in Martorell did not shut down. The fact that the protest had to be agreed upon between businesses and workers led to a wide range of situations.

The high participation in the shutdown was later reflected in massive demonstrations. In Barcelona alone 300,000 people rallied in the streets, but the enormous gatherings, many of them in places attacked by the National Police or Guardia Civil on Sunday, were also seen in cities such as Tarragona, Lleida, Girona, Cornellà, Rubí, Vilanova i la Geltrú, and Tortosa. Early in the morning up to sixty highways were blocked, among them the main highways, which created great difficulties for mobility: the AP-7 was cut off at Cardedeu, where there were queues of up to 72 kilometers; the C-32 in Maresme; the C-58 between Cerdanyola and Ripollet; the AP-7 in Alt Empordà, with a last-minute change of plans to avoid police presence; etc. The Barcelona metro was in service only with minimum services. In contrast, Renfe and the El Prat airport were unaffected.

Starting early in the day, demonstrations were staged at different points in Barcelona. Some were a kind of festive picketing, like that in Ciutat Vella and Poble Sec, in which businesses were invited to join the protest. In other areas they had more political significance, such as the one outside the headquarters of the Partido Popular on Carrer Urgell (Barcelona) or the one in front of the Delegation of the Spanish Government. All of them came together at 12:00 in Plaça Universitat, where 300,000 people gathered, according to Barcelona city’s Guàrdia Urbana, most of them students, in a gathering that overflowed onto the Gran Via and even Plaça de Catalunya and Ronda Universitat. Young people with Spanish flags could be seen at the marches alongside others bearing estelades (Catalan pro-independence flags) in perfect harmony and co-existence. "The streets will always be ours" became the leading chant in the demonstrations against the Spanish police forces.

Many of the students then continued the protest rally, and moved to Via Laietana, where there is a National Police precinct, which was protected by the Mossos. There were some moments of tension there. Indeed the organizers warned everyone of the possible presence of Spanish officers posing as demonstrators, so that if anyone tried to provoke violence they would be called out. The marches ended up at Parc de la Ciutadella, in front of the Parliament, in preparation for the afternoon demonstrations.

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