Catalan independence protesters who blocked a border crossing with France were routed – in some cases physically dragged away – by French riot police working with Catalan police, just a day into a planned three-day protest.
Hundreds of heavily-armored French riot cops descended on La Jonquera border crossing on Tuesday, arresting 18 protesters and reportedly using pepper spray and tear gas to disperse scores more manning a large roadblock spanning both sides of the normally-busy highway. The Catalan autonomous police (Mosses d’Esquadra) have also arrested at least one protester, reportedly for attacking a law enforcement officer.
Video of the police breaking up the protest shows French gendarmes and Catalan autonomous police literally dragging demonstrators away from the barricade, while reports from Figaro and Vanguardia suggest more violent methods were used to disperse protesters who insist theirs was an act of “peaceful civil disobedience.”
Catalan independence group Democratic Tsunami had erected a barricade across both sides of highway A7 on Monday with the aim of forcing the international community to pressure Spain into negotiating with pro-independence Catalans and releasing nine pro-independence politicians who received harsh sentences last month. In addition to the usual barricade materials – cars, concrete barriers, traffic cones – the protesters set up a stage and were serenaded by several musical acts. The barricade was supposed to remain in place for three days.
The protest was announced last week, set for after Sunday’s elections, regardless of the outcome. The vote saw neither Left nor Right gain enough seats for a majority, though the Vox party – which categorically opposes Catalonian independence – doubled its representation in parliament.
Catalan leader Quim Torra asked police to handle the protesters “with exquisite care, so that no one gets hurt” in an interview on Catalunya Radio, suggesting there was no need to charge them with any crime.
Catalan independence protests have been raging since the independence leaders were sentenced last month, but Democratic Tsunami was reportedly in the works even before that, launching in September. The group, which purports to be leaderless, has claimed responsibility for major protest actions in Barcelona like an airport occupation accomplished with the help of fake plane tickets sent to group members.