18:03 GMT +321 March 2018
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    People hold placards reading Free political prisoners and Catalan pro-independence 'Estelada' flags during a demonstration outside the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona on November 8, 2017 during a regionwide strike called by a pro-independence union

    Pro-Independence Protesters in Catalonia Block Dozens of Roads in General Strike

    © AFP 2018/ LLUIS GENE
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    Pro-independence activists continue to hold rallies in Catalonia, protesting the recent decisions made by the central government in Madrid.

    MADRID (Sputnik) — Dozens of motorways and some railway tracks have been blocked by protesters in Catalonia on Wednesday as part of a strike called by pro-independence activists.

    The autonomous region has faced weeks of turmoil following the referendum on independence held on October 1 with over 90 percent of 2.2 million out of 5.3 million registered voters backing independence, with Madrid not recognizing the legality of the vote or its results. On October 27, the Catalan Parliament passed a declaration of independence, leading to a decision made by the Spanish Senate to approve the use of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which allows Madrid to impose direct rule over the autonomous region. In addition, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Catalan government and parliament, setting a snap election for December 21.

    Wednesday's strike is intended to protest the detention of eight former Catalan ministers, who are currently in Spain.

    According to the Catalan transport authority, 35 roads have been blocked, including several in Barcelona by members of "Committees for the defense of the republic," in particular.

    Activists, who are reportedly trying to block roads in and out of Barcelona, are holding banners urging the Spanish authorities to release detained Catalan politicians that were part of the pro-independence government.

    The Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, are trying to evacuate people from the roads, while the transport authority urges drivers to refrain from using cars. Buses and the subway in Barcelona are working as usual, but some local train services have faced minor interruptions with some of the tracks blocked by protesters.

    Protesters have occupied the building of a station in Girona, used by high-speed trains, with police not being able to prevent protesters from entering and a video has appeared on social network showing them next to the platform.

    Unions, Activists

    The Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural, large pro-independence organizations, called for a general strike on Wednesday as a protest against the detention of several politicians in Madrid and against warrants for the arrest of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four other members of the Catalan government, Generalitat, who are currently in Belgium.

    Labor union Intersindical CSC, supporting the independence, has joined the strike. It has cited the unstable situation on the job market, low salaries and increased poverty among workers as the official reasons for participating in the protest.

    The Workers' Commissions (CCOO) and the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT) have not joined the strike, but have said that they would join some other protest events.

    Some educational institutions are closed. The large education union Ustec-STEs, student union Sindicat d'Estudiants dels Països Catalans (Sepc) and Sindicat d'Estudiants (SE) have supported the protest. A protest event will be held later on Wednesday near the University of Barcelona.

    Supporters of independence are planning to hold a large rally on Saturday.


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