Catalonia beset by divided loyalties in protest aftermath

 In U.S.

Protesters gather in front of the Spanish National Police headquarters during a general strike in Catalonia (03 October 2017)Image copyright

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The protesters say the violent reaction of the Spanish authorities to their independence demands has strengthened their cause

She cried when she saw the news, he could hardly believe what he was watching.

Here in 21st Century Spain, police were beating people for trying to hold a vote.

Never mind that Ana didn’t turn out herself for a ballot she believes was illegal in her beloved Spain.

Never mind that Xavier had already made up his mind to break away from the very same Spain.

Like many others, both are deeply upset about the violence at the polling stations.

At least, though, they have the comfort of being head over heels in love with each other.

Rajoy’s contribution

On Laietana Street, there’s no love lost for the police among the protesters.

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Media captionProtesting Catalan student Mauro Castro Soler

“Spanish murderers!” they chant at the building marked with a furled Spanish flag that looks lonely against the Catalan flags on nearby walls.

The building is protected by a line of Catalan riot police and vans.

One man all but shoves an “anti-fascist” flag into the face of a policeman, like a red rag to a bull.

The bull doesn’t react, though the two sides are so close, you can imagine they smell each other’s breath, as well as the heady fumes of whatever it is people are smoking in the crowd.

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Many in Catalonia are especially angry with Spanish police officers

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There is shock that police were used against people for trying to hold a vote

It’s 24 hours after the referendum and hundreds of hyper-young protesters are jubilantly occupying the street outside the Barcelona headquarters of Spain’s National Police.

They’re on a roll wrapped in their lone-star Catalan rebel flags, yelling up at the windows, demanding Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy takes his 10,000-odd extra police officers out of Catalonia.

“When they’re gone, we’ll turn the building into a library!” one young man tells me with a grin.

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Getty Images

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Events on Sunday have left many people traumatised

Through the balaclavas, it’s hard to tell how the Catalan riot police are taking all this, protecting their Spanish comrades from a hostile crowd, but their helmets hang unused from their belts along with the truncheons and pistols.

The only things being thrown this evening are paper planes which come down like volleys of toy darts on the police and their vans, to gales of triumphant laughter from the crowd.

On Sunday, in one Catalan town (Carles de la Rapita), there was a particularly bloody clash outside a polling station, and stones were hurled at Spanish police cars.

“If you’d asked me three or four years ago, I would probably have said independence was not the right way – it doesn’t matter to me what’s on the flag,” says one of those at the Barcelona protest, 23-year-old Yes voter Jo, who doesn’t want to give his full name.

“But every day now, basic rights are being violated. When we ask for more self-government, they only send police to beat old people and kids.

“In the past two weeks, Spain did more for Catalan independence than the Catalans in the past 10 years because if you point a gun at people they feel under attack, and if they feel under attack, it’s logical that they won’t want to stay with you.

“If we become independent tomorrow, I will congratulate Mariano Rajoy because he has done more than most to bring it about.”

Stressful days

In a cafe across town, Xavier Querol, 25, wants to make something very clear.

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Xavier and Ana speak both Catalan and Spanish

“It’s not a fight,” he says. “We don’t have a good side and a bad side – both sides are right. People are angry and disgusted but we are not fighting each other – that is all politics.

“Sunday was a disgrace and a shock. I know Spanish people who say they feel ashamed to be Spanish, but we still talk. It’s the politicians who won’t talk.”

But his girlfriend Ana Jorques, 20, has noticed how the mood among some groups of Spanish and Catalan friends in Barcelona has soured.

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