A pro-independence general strike in Catalonia on Wednesday brought chaos to dozens of the regions’ roads as protesters blocked traffic with sit-down protests.
As early as six in the morning, demonstrators occupied over 60 roads across Catalonia, causing massive traffic jams. A large number of the protests centred on the main access routes in and out of Barcelona.
Catalonia’s transport authorities responded to the spate of blocked roads by issuing a general warning to travellers not to travel by car.
While some road protests passed off peacefully, with demonstrators playing chess and cards on folding tables in the middle of motorways, there were scuffles in others when the region’s local police, the Mossos D’Esquadra, physically removed the protesters to try to allow traffic through.
Although the strike was originally to demand an increase in minimal wage levels in the region, it was quickly adopted by pro-independence associations and parties to protest against the imposition of direct rule and the incarceration of various former top nationalist ministers, including sacked regional vice-president Oriol Junqueras.
Trade union sources said that education was also seriously affected by the strike, with most of Catalonia’s universities close to non-operational, as well as a large number of schools.
However, despite the road traffic chaos, the overall level of support was lower than the previous pro-independence general strike, on 3 October, two days after a tumultuous banned referendum on breaking away from Spain.
Most , shops and factories operated normally, as did the bulk of the region’s railways and airports. One exception to the rule occurred on the high-speed train link between Barcelona and France, where hundreds of protesters in the city of Girona, a Catalan nationalist stronghold, moved onto the railway lines chanting “Freedom, Freedom”. Another was one of Barcelona’s biggest stations, Sants, with trains stopped when protesters occupied eight different platforms until well into the evening.
The central government was dismissive of the strike, with one minister Inigo Serna, saying it had had “minimal support” but had given rise to “acts of vandalism”.
Pro-independence demonstrations to protest against “Madrid’s authoritarian policies” also took place across the region. One of the most important took place around noon in front of Barcelona’s town hall, a traditional assembly point for the separatist movement, where thousands of protesters demanded freedom for the incarcerated pro-independence ministers and leaders.
Meanwhile, as had been widely expected on Wednesday, Spain’s Constitutional Court confirmed it had annulled the Catalan parliament’s unilateral declaration of independence on 27 October