Anti-lockdown protesters in Barcelona have clashed with police over Spain‘s state of emergency restrictions, throwing bricks at officers and setting bins alight.
The demonstration began peacefully in St Jaume de Barcelona Square before descending into smaller violent clashes on Friday.
At least two people have been arrested according to the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s police force.
Several hundred people from sectors badly affected by coronavirus, including restaurants, the arts and gyms initially gathered to protest regional border closures.
The measures came as Spain’s central government unveiled a state of emergency to give regional authorities powers to impose curfews and close their borders to anyone moving without just cause.
A demonstrator throws a rock at a police van in central Barcelona on Friday after a protest against new coronavirus restrictions descended into violence
Some protesters set bins alight in the city’s streets as police attempted to disperse the crowd. Police blame a small group within the rally for inciting violence
At least two people have been arrested according to the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s police force, who were called in to disperse the crowd
Some protesters began pushing against police cordons and throwing flares and other objects at officers who then attempted to disperse demonstrators from the city centre, attendees told Spain’s El Pais newspaper.
Police also hit protesters with batons and reportedly used foam bullets against those assembled outside the regional and local government headquarters.
Dozens of protesters then separated into groups to narrow streets in Barcelona’s gothic quarter, setting trash containers on fire to serve as barricades.
A Mossos spokesman told AFP news agency that up to 700 protesters had attended the rally but the violence was started by a group of about 50.
A protester holds a brick aloft during a rally against new regional measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. Several protesters threw rocks and other objects at police during the Friday demonstration
Regional police reportedly used foam bullets to disperse protesters who they were photographed hitting with batons on Friday
Some demonstrators hurled barricades at police as they gathered outside the headquarters of the regional and local government on Friday
Sirens wailed throughout the city centre as police sought to disperse the protesters and firefighters hosed down the streets to put out fires in several large wheelie bins.
The call to protest had spread in social media with flyers. Rioting began within minutes of the gathering when some of the protesters removed their surgical masks and shouted ‘This is theft! This is a scam!’
Some protesters have accused authorities of lying about the seriousness of the outbreaks to justify curbs on personal freedom.
Riot police offers hold their batons up as they move to disperse a crowd of protesters from central Barcelona on Friday evening
Police used their batons to disperse protesters on Friday night as Spain announced 239 new fatalities, bringing the country’s total death toll to 35,878
Regional police officers take position next to burning rubbish set alight by disgruntled protesters in Barcelona. A rally was held in the city centre against new coronavirus measures introduced as part of Spain’s state of emergency
El Pais reported that some police sources blamed ‘radical groups’ linked to the nightlife and security sectors – both badly hit by the pandemic – with inciting violence at the rally and have accused them of intentionally setting out to provoke incidents.
Some people in attendance at the rally reportedly agreed that there were some elements in the crowd intent on causing trouble from the outset.
Friday’s clashes mark the second violent protest in Barcelona in less than a week. Four people were arrested on Sunday after the Mossos intervened in a rally of protesters who deny the existence of Covid-19.
It followed similar disturbances sparked by coronavirus deniers in Bilbao, in Spain, on Thursday and in cities across Italy on Monday.
Barricades intended to hem in the protesters were used as weapons by some in clashes with riot police in Barcelona on Friday night
Sirens wailed throughout the city centre as police sought to disperse the protesters and firefighters hosed down the streets to put out fires in several large wheelie bins
Protesters threw bricks, flares and barricades at regional police officers who responded with batons and, reportedly, rubber bullets
Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries by COVID-19, imposed a state of emergency this week to try halt the rise of coronavirus infections. It is expected to last until may next year.
Like other European countries, Spain has resorted to increasingly drastic measures to curb infections, although less stringent than in Germany or France.
Catalonia has seen some of the toughest measures introduced, with officials closing down the hospitality industry and imposing a 10pm to 6am curfew. All but essential weekend travel in and out of local areas has also been banned.
Firefighters were deployed to put out fires in Barcelona’s city centre after disgruntled protesters set fire to bins as part of a rally against new coronavirus measures
Police clashed with protesters at the rally on Friday after officers said a small group within the hundreds-strong crowd became violent
A fire started in a bin is reflected in the window of a Starbucks coffee shop in central Barcelona during a protest against measures intended to stop the spread of coronavirus
Health Ministry data showed 25,595 new coronavirus infections confirmed on Friday, a new record that brings the total caseload since February to 1.18 million.
The government last week admitted that the real tally, including missed cases, could be well over 3 million infections.
With 239 new fatalities, the total death toll rose Friday to 35,878.