Barcelona police keep apart Catalan separatists, unionists

September 16, 2018 - 6:00 am

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Police in Barcelona intervened on Sunday to keep apart a group of Catalan separatists and a march of those who support Spanish unity.

Police formed a barrier to keep the opposing groups from reaching one another when the separatists rallied in a downtown square where the march in favor of an increase in teaching of Spanish in local schools had planned to finish. There were no reported incidents of violence.

"They let the separatists take over the square and we couldn't enter. People are angry," Gloria Lago, an organizer of the grassroots group "Hablamos Español" ("We Speak Spanish") that called the march, told Catalan television TV3.

Many of the 1,000 marchers waved Spanish flags and chanted "we are not fascists, we are Spaniards!" and "don't be fooled, Catalonia is Spain!"

Meanwhile, the separatist supporters held a banner saying "We defend the language" in support of the current predominance of Catalan in the northeastern region's schools.

Both Spanish and Catalan are spoken by the 7.5 million residents in the bilingual region.

Last year, Catalonia's separatist-led Parliament issued an illegal and ineffective declaration of independence. Its leaders are currently pushing Spain' central government to authorize an official referendum on secession.

Polls and election results show that the region is roughly equally divided on the secession question.