Pro-independence supporters protest against Carles Puigdemont’s arrest
Several hundred gathered near the Italian consulate in Barcelona on Friday morning, while a major demonstration is planned for Sunday
The morning after news broke of the arrest of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, up to a thousand pro-independence supporters gathered as close as they could get to the Italian consulate in Barcelona to voice their anger at the detention of the former Catalan leader.
Puigdemont was arrested on Thursday night on the Italian island of Sardinia under European warrants for his arrest. He is wanted by the Spanish Supreme Court for organizing the 2017 independence referendum in Catalonia and leading the movement to attempt to split from Spain.
On Friday afternoon he is likely to be provisionally released but must remain on the island of Sardinia while judges deliberate on his case.
Up to a thousand people turned up on Avinguda Diagonal on Friday morning to call for the politician’s release and to denounce what they view as repression.
The crowd including many ministers from Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya party, as well as parliament speaker Laura Borràs, also a senior member of the party.
Speaking with Catalan News, Borràs described her "indignation" upon hearing the news as, she says, the former president's "freedom is not being respected."
"He's a free man in a free Europe, he has a political agenda across Europe. Last week he was in Paris," Borràs explained. "Italy should be respecting the European courts and Spain should be respecting president Puigdemont's political inviolability. If you are talking about peace and negotiation or dialogue and then you are arresting people and not considering their rights, these things are not compatible."
Ernest Maragall, a senior member of Esquerra Republicana, senior coalition partners with Puigdemont's Junts party in the Catalan government, echoed the same sentiments of anger.
"Our message is freedom and respect rights, respect European values and the free decision of the Catalan people," Maragall told Catalan News. "Today we see these principles and values are being destroyed by Spain and Italian justice."
"[The arrest] will reinforce [the independence campaign]," the ERC official believes. "It is giving us a new argument, a new reason, we are full of reasons."
Police units had cordoned off Carrer Aribau, where the Italian consulate is located, and as such most protesters gathered on Diagonal, one of the main streets that stretches across the whole city of Barcelona, which was cut off for a number of blocks.
In Girona, around 500 people gathered in front of the headquarters of the Catalan government to demand the "end of repression" and the "immediate" release of Puigdemont.
Further protests are planned for Friday evening at 8 pm outside various local councils, while a major demonstration is planned for Sunday in the centre of Barcelona.