By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - After a chaotic night marked by bonfires lighting the streets of Catalonia, along with police clashes, injuries, and arrests, thousands of protestors are still marching throughout the northeastern Spanish region to protest Monday's sentencing of separatist leaders.
Police arrested 51 protestors Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and 72 police officers were injured in clashes, according to the Spanish government.
Wednesday marks day three of protests in reaction to the Spanish Supreme Court sentencing of separatist leaders for their role in the 2017 independence attempt. Nine of the politicians and activists charged were sentenced to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition.
Protestors have called the sentences overly harsh, as the politicians were only carrying out their democratic mandate. They say the sentences set dangerous precedents in terms of the right to protest. Many also believe that Catalonia has a right to self-determination.
Frustration is high, both for pro-independence Catalans and the other, approximately half or more, Catalan residents who wish to remain part of Spain.
So far Wednesday, protestors have blocked a high-speed rail line and certain highways, but the marches remain peaceful.
Overnight Tuesday, however, a minority of protestors, many young men, lit large bonfires throughout the city centers of Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida, and other cities. They were documented insulting police officers and throwing objects at them.
“I firmly condemn the violence that tries to shatter the harmonious coexistence in Catalonia,” tweeted Spain’s Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday. He also announced that he would be meeting with other political groups today to discuss the situation.
Politicians from right-wing parties are slamming Sanchez’s handling of the situation. Pablo Casado, leader of the Popular Party, is urging him to trigger a special law that would put more power in the hands of the central government. Spanish national elections are set to be held in less than a month.
On Monday night approximately 10,000 protestors overtook Barcelona’s airport, causing the cancellation of dozens of flights.
Quim Torra, Catalonia’s premier, thanked the protestors for their actions at the airport but has yet to comment on last night’s riots.
Protests are expected to continue indefinitely. Pro-separatist unions have called for a general strike on Friday.