Marches and strikes rattle Catalonia amid separatist anger

  • A protestors uses a sling during clashes with police in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest.

    A protestors uses a sling during clashes with police in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest. Associated Press

  • Protestors wave Estelada pro-independence flags during a demonstration in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest.

    Protestors wave Estelada pro-independence flags during a demonstration in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest. Associated Press

  • Spanish police vans drive next to burning barricades during clashes with Catalan pro-independence protestors in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest.

    Spanish police vans drive next to burning barricades during clashes with Catalan pro-independence protestors in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest. Associated Press

  • Police officers run past a burning barricade on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in "Freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day.

    Police officers run past a burning barricade on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in "Freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day. Associated Press

  • Protesters stand behind trash containers used as barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in "Freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day.

    Protesters stand behind trash containers used as barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in "Freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day. Associated Press

  • Pro-independence demonstrators march into the city on the fifth day of protests in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike.

    Pro-independence demonstrators march into the city on the fifth day of protests in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike. Associated Press

  • Catalan regional police covered in paint trhown by pro-independence demonstrators in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike.

    Catalan regional police covered in paint trhown by pro-independence demonstrators in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike. Associated Press

  • Spanish police stand outside a police station surrounded of objects thrown by pro-independence demonstrators in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike.

    Spanish police stand outside a police station surrounded of objects thrown by pro-independence demonstrators in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike. Associated Press

  • A protester draped with an "estelada" or independence flag stands outside outside the Sagrada Família basilica during pro-independence gathering on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike.

    A protester draped with an "estelada" or independence flag stands outside outside the Sagrada Família basilica during pro-independence gathering on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike. Associated Press

  • Protesters match into the city on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike.

    Protesters match into the city on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike. Associated Press

  • Protesters march into the city on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike.

    Protesters march into the city on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike. Associated Press

  • A protester holds a portrait of Spain's King Felipe upside down during a pro-independence gathering on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike.

    A protester holds a portrait of Spain's King Felipe upside down during a pro-independence gathering on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike. Associated Press

  • An elderly man joins a pro-independence gathering outside the Sagrada Família basilica i on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike.

    An elderly man joins a pro-independence gathering outside the Sagrada Família basilica i on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike. Associated Press

  • A man confronts masked demonstrators on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in "Freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day.

    A man confronts masked demonstrators on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in "Freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day. Associated Press

  • Demonstrators join a pro-independence gathering outside the Sagrada Família basilica during the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike.

    Demonstrators join a pro-independence gathering outside the Sagrada Família basilica during the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 file photo, former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont arrives for a media conference in Brussels. Puigdemont's office said Friday Oct. 18, 2019, fugitive former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has handed himself in to Belgian justice authorities after Spain issued a new warrant for his arrest following the sentencing of 12 of his former colleagues.

    FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 file photo, former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont arrives for a media conference in Brussels. Puigdemont's office said Friday Oct. 18, 2019, fugitive former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has handed himself in to Belgian justice authorities after Spain issued a new warrant for his arrest following the sentencing of 12 of his former colleagues. Associated Press

  • Protestors hold pictures of Catalan high-profile separatist politicians, some jailed and others who are fugitives from Spanish law after fleeing the country, during a demonstration in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest.

    Protestors hold pictures of Catalan high-profile separatist politicians, some jailed and others who are fugitives from Spanish law after fleeing the country, during a demonstration in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest. Associated Press

  • Police officers run past a burning barricade on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in "Freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day.

    Police officers run past a burning barricade on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in "Freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day. Associated Press

  • Police officers run past a burning barricade on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in "Freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day.

    Police officers run past a burning barricade on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in "Freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day. Associated Press

  • Police officers wait to advance on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders had earlier flooded downtown Barcelona.

    Police officers wait to advance on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders had earlier flooded downtown Barcelona. Associated Press

  • National police officers shoot rubber bullets to protesters, during clashes in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest.

    National police officers shoot rubber bullets to protesters, during clashes in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest. Associated Press

  • Protesters make barricades during clashes with police in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest.

    Protesters make barricades during clashes with police in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest. Associated Press

  • National police officers take positions in front of protesters, during clashes in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest.

    National police officers take positions in front of protesters, during clashes in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest. Associated Press

  • Police arrest press photographer Albert Garcia from El Pais newspaper on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders had earlier flooded downtown Barcelona.

    Police arrest press photographer Albert Garcia from El Pais newspaper on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders had earlier flooded downtown Barcelona. Associated Press

  • Protesters stand and crouch behind barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia???s independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in ???Freedom marches??? from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day.

    Protesters stand and crouch behind barricades on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia???s independence and the release from prison of their separatist leaders have flooded downtown Barcelona. The protesters have poured into the city after some of them walked for three days in ???Freedom marches??? from towns across the northeastern Spanish region, joining students and workers who have also taken to the streets on a general strike day. Associated Press

  • Protestors wave Estelada pro-independence flags during a demonstration in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest.

    Protestors wave Estelada pro-independence flags during a demonstration in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest. Associated Press

  • A Catalan pro-independence protestor throws a stone during clashes with police in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest.

    A Catalan pro-independence protestor throws a stone during clashes with police in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.The Catalan regional capital is bracing for a fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders. Five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are converging in Barcelona's center for a mass protest. Associated Press

  • Protesters match into the city on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike.

    Protesters match into the city on the fifth day of protests over the conviction of a dozen Catalan independence leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Various flights into and out of the region are cancelled Friday due to a general strike called by pro-independence unions and five marches of tens of thousands from inland towns are expected converge in Barcelona's center on Friday afternoon for a mass protest with students to and workers who are on strike. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/18/2019 4:54 PM

BARCELONA, Spain -- Masses of flag-waving demonstrators demanding Catalonia's independence and the release from prison of separatist leaders jammed downtown Barcelona on Friday as the northeastern Spanish region endured its fifth straight night of unrest.

Chaotic scenes of violence erupted after more than a half million protesters, including families with children, marched in the Catalan capital, according to local police. Many were clad in pro-independence 'estelada' flags and shouted "Independence!" and "Freedom for political prisoners!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Some of them had walked for three days in five massive "freedom marches" from towns across the northeastern Spanish region. They converged on Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million people, and joined students and workers who also took to the streets during a 24-hour general strike.

But at night, police resorted again to rubber bullets and, for the first time this week, to tear gas and water cannons to repel masked youths hurling cobblestones and flammable bottles, building barricades and setting dozens of bonfires with large garbage bins.

Around 400 people, roughly half of them police officers, have been injured according to regional and central authorities, and 128 arrested since separatist sentiment surged on Monday, when the Supreme Court sentenced to lengthy prison terms nine separatist politicians and activists. The nine had led a 2017 push for independence that triggered Spain's deepest political crisis in decades.

On Friday, the huge displays of support were mostly peaceful, but protesters and police battled over the control of Barcelona's center after protesters circled the gates of the national police's headquarters. As clashes with police escalated, the chaos spread to other areas of the Catalan capital.

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Albert Ramón, a 43-year-old public servant joining one of the rallies in the northern city of Girona, said the convictions - including fines for three more separatists - had soured the political climate.

"These verdicts violate fundamental rights and hence people are reacting," Ramón said.

The separatist movement is proud of its history of mostly peaceful campaigning. Officials have accused a relatively small number of agitators of provoking the recent riots.

Spanish authorities suspect a secretive new group called Tsunami Democratic is using encrypted messages to orchestrate some of the attacks, which have included torched cars and burning barricades in the streets.

The group appeared on Sept. 2 and in just over six weeks has gained nearly 340,000 followers on its main channel in Telegram, a messaging app.

A National Court judge on Friday ordered the closure of websites linked to the group.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Rights group Amnesty International called on "all authorities" to refrain from contributing to the escalation of tensions in the streets and to respond "proportionally" to outbreaks of violence.

The group said in a statement that it had observed "various cases" of "excessive" use of police force, "including inappropriate and unjustified use of batons and other defensive equipment against people who posed no risk."

But the interim interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, defended the police action as "proportionate" and warned Catalan separatists that Spain will apply the criminal code "with all its force," threatening them with prison terms of up to six years.

Tourists also felt the turmoil. At least two large cruise operators diverted their ships to other ports, and those which had already docked in the port of Barcelona cancelled their passengers' excursions to the city. Architect Antoni Gaudí's modernist Sagrada Familia also closed its doors due to a protest blocking access to the basilica.

Naoya Suzuki, a 34-year-old tourist from Japan, complained about the disruptions to "people who have nothing to do with Spain."

"I've had a look at the news and I can just about understand why they are angry, but not why are they are doing all this and stopping the sightseeing of tourists," he said.

Dozens of flights into and out of the region were canceled due to the strike called by pro-independence unions. Picketers also blocked roads to the border with France and elsewhere, sometimes with burning tires.

Commuter and long-distance train services were significantly reduced, and many shops and factories didn't open for business.

Spain's interim prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said authorities would prosecute radicals who rioted this week while ensuring that peaceful protests can continue.

"Those who break the law have to answer for their deeds sooner or later," Sánchez told a press conference in Brussels, where he was attending a European Union summit.

Sánchez faces a general election in less than a month, and the tensions in Catalonia are a test of his political skills.

The former head of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, on Friday avoided being jailed after he voluntarily testified before Belgian judicial authorities over a new warrant that Spain issued this week following the Supreme Court sentences. He is also wanted for his part in the 2017 independence bid.

The Belgian judge ordered his release without bail but instructed him to remain in Belgium while awaiting an Oct. 29 extradition hearing, the Belgian prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Instability in Catalonia led to the postponement of next week's marquee soccer match between Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Spanish soccer federation said the game was being moved to avoid overlap with a large separatist rally, as officials fear more violence.

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Emilio Morenatti, Bernat Armangue, Renata Brito, Joseph Wilson, Hernán Muñoz and Alicia León reported from Barcelona. Lorne Cook in Brussels and Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal contributed to this report.

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