The fight for independence is not a new concept; peoples from all over the world have been engaging in this battle for thousands of years. America gained its independence in 1776 – now, groups in the Spanish area of Catalonia are campaigning to become independent.
Catalan nationalists have complained for a long time that they send too much money to the poorer parts of Spain, through taxes controlled by Madrid. This region of Spain has a population of about 7.5 million people who have occupied the area for 1,000 years; they have their own parliament, language, flag, and anthem. Although for years separatists have been holding peaceful demonstrations to promote independence, recently the protests turned violent.
This happened after nine independence leaders had been found guilty of sedition (a crime that involves inciting people to rebel against the authority of the state or monarchy) by Spain and given jail sentences. Catalonia’s former Vice President Oriol Junqueras was convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds, sentenced to 13 years in prison, and banned from holding public office for 13 years. Former Foreign Minister Raul Romeva, Labor Minister Dolors Bassa, and Regional Government Spokesman Jordi Turull were convicted of the same and handed 12 years imprisonment. They were and also banned from holding office for 12 years. Others had lesser sentences but were still given several years in prison and barred from holding office.
Minutes after the court ruling, the people took to the streets, protesting in outrage. More than 500,000 attended a peaceful demonstration, but that was followed by several nights of rioting. As of October 18, 207 police officers had been injured, 107 police vehicles damaged, and nearly 800 trash cans set on fire.
The Sagrada Familia Church, which is Barcelona’s most famous landmark, was blocked by pro-independence protesters, and 57 flights were canceled at Barcelona-El Prat airport. The Spanish football federation had to postpone its Barcelona-Real Madrid game because of the disturbances. Roads were blocked by demonstrators, making it difficult for citizens to move and businesses to stay open. At least 96 people were hurt as the protests continued across Spain’s north-eastern region.