The mayor of riot-stricken Barcelona on Saturday pleaded for calm after violent protests by Catalan separatists rocked Spain’s second largest city for a fifth consecutive night.
“This cannot continue. Barcelona does not deserve it,” Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau told reporters, adding that Friday’s violence was the worst so far.
Protesters clashed with police again later on Saturday despite efforts by some citizens to mediate by gathering between the two sides.
There was also a skirmish between separatist supporters and police in a square in Madrid.
Authorities are bracing for more protests in the coming days.
Radical separatists have fought with police every night in Barcelona and other Catalan cities following huge peaceful protests by people angered by the Spanish Supreme Court verdict on Monday last week that sentenced nine separatist leaders to prison for their roles in a failed 2017 secession attempt.
More than 500,000 people gathered in downtown Barcelona on Friday in a massive show of support for the secession movement that is backed by roughly half of the wealthy northeastern region’s 5.5 million voters.
Before night fell, several hundred masked youths had surrounded the headquarters of the Spanish National Police and started a street battle that raged into the night in Barcelona.
“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,” said Catalan Interior Minister Miquel Buch, who oversees the regional police.
Rioters have burned hundreds of trash cans and hurled gasoline bombs, chunks of pavement, acid, and firecrackers, among other objects, at police.
They have used nails to puncture the tires of police vans and fireworks to hit one police helicopter, without doing it serious damage.
Outnumbered officers in riot gear from both Catalonia’s regional police and Spain’s national police have used batons, rubber and foam bullets, tear gas and water cannon to battle back.
“It has been quite scary,” said Deepa Khumar, a doctor from Toronto visiting for a medical conference. “This place, it looks like a war zone.”
Authorities say more than 500 people have been hurt over the week, including protesters and police. Eighteen people remained hospitalized, at least one in very serious condition. Police have made more than 150 arrests.
A small group of supporters of Spanish unity on Saturday approached the police headquarters that has been the focus of separatists’ rage to give officers flowers and gifts.
“We feel so anguished,” said 54-year-old economist Maria Jesus Cortes. “There used to be a nice atmosphere in Barcelona. Everybody with their own ideas, and that was it. We used to live in peace.”
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