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What’s Behind the Barcelona Protests?

The sentencing of Catalan independence movement leaders triggered a day of demonstrations in the capital of Catalonia—and more unrest may be coming.
Police officers clash with demonstrators outside El Prat airport in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, October 14, 2019.
Police officers clash with demonstrators outside El Prat airport in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, October 14, 2019.Emilio Morenatti/AP

Barcelona erupted in protests yesterday, after courts handed out sentences of up to 13 years in prison to nine Catalan separatist leaders arrested for their role in staging a 2017 referendum on Catalan independence.

Protesters filled the streets across the Catalan capital, with an estimated 25,000 massing in the city center and an unconfirmed but substantial number at the airport. Employing a strategy most recently used by demonstrators in Hong Kong, they blocked train and metro access to the airport for several hours, causing over 100 flight cancellations.