President Torra joins pro-independence protest: 'Violence does not represent us'

Government head makes no specific allusion to Tuesday's unrest as interior minister warns of "violent groups" and defends police action

Catalan president Quim Torra takes part in a 'March for Freedom' against the Supreme Court's verdict (by Jack Gou)
Catalan president Quim Torra takes part in a 'March for Freedom' against the Supreme Court's verdict (by Jack Gou) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 16, 2019 05:50 PM

"The violence does not represent us and never will," said president Quim Torra on Wednesday, in reference to the "Catalan pro-independence movement," following the unrest seen on Tuesday evening in a number of Catalan cities.

Yet, the president made no specific reference to Tuesday's unrest nor did he mention the role of the Catalan police or explicitly distance his government from the disturbances, as Spain's acting interior minister, Fernando Grande Marlaska, had appealed for him to do earlier in the day.

Barcelona was just one city where demonstrators set up barricades in the streets that they set on fire while clashing with both Spanish and Catalan police in protest over the prison sentences handed down to nine Catalan leaders for the 2017 independence bid.

Torra was in the northern Girona region to take part in the first day of the Marches for Freedom protest organized by civil pro-independence organizations, and he said he was "very proud of the civic spirit" he had encountered there.

The protest involves five separate marches that left from five different Catalan cities on Wednesday, which will cover various stages and will be timed to arrive in Barcelona on Friday for a major demonstration against the sentences.

Torra’s actions draw criticism

However, Torra's presence at the march drew criticism from Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, who insisted that "the Catalan president's place is to give explanations so as to reassure the public and put forward specific proposals for a way out of the stalemate." 

The mayor's comments came after Torra left an urgent meeting of ministers he had called earlier in the day to discuss the unrest, leaving vice president Pere Aragonès, presidency minister Meritxell Budó, and interior minister Miquel Buch to continue the discussion.

After the meeting, vice president Pere Aragonès called for "calmness and responsibility" from everyone on Wednesday, the day after the turmoil in Barcelona city center. 

Meanwhile, Carlos Lesmes, the president General Council of the Judiciary and of the Supreme Court, warned Torra that he was "responsible for the limits that must not be surpassed" in terms of the protests against the Supreme Court verdict.  

Lesmes told the press on Wednesday that, while criticizing and protesting against the verdict was "legitimate," he also argued that "everything that surpasses the limit of the right to criticize or to protest warrants a reprimand," especially "if they come from or are instigated by a public official." 

This warning comes after Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the Catalan parliament resolution defending self-determination and reminded chamber bureau members and the government of the possibility of "criminal responsibilities" if they persisted.

Catalan minister defends police action

On Wednesday, Catalan interior minister Miquel Buch defended the action of the Catalan Mossos police force, which was involved in charges against pro-independence protesters, and said he would not step down for their actions. 

"Police cordons should not be broken nor should street furniture be destroyed or blunt objects thrown at police or at protesters. These are acts of senseless violence that do not represent," Buch argued. 

As for the agitators that have been behind post-protest clashes, the minister said they should be "isolated."