Demonstrators block Ronda Dalt road during the general strike in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. A worker's union has called for a general strike Wednesday in Catalonia. The regional government was sacked by Madrid and many of its members jailed in a rebellion probe after pushing ahead with secession from Spain. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The Latest: Pro-secession protesters pack Barcelona square

November 08, 2017 - 7:26 am

MADRID (AP) — The Latest on the Spain-Catalonia political crisis (all times local):


1:20 p.m.

Several thousand pro-independence protesters have packed a central square in Barcelona as part of a general strike in Catalonia to protest the jailing of members of the ousted Catalan government and secessionist activists.

The protest at noon Wednesday held outside the regional government's headquarters was called by two grassroots secessionist groups, the Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural.

People waved Catalan independence flags and chanted "Freedom," for the 10 detained by Spanish courts in a rebellion and sedition probe in the days before and after Catalonia's parliament ignored Spanish court rulings and declared independence Oct. 27.

Catalan National Assembly representative Agusti Alcoberro told the crowd the arrests were "an attack on democracy and a humiliation" of Catalan people.

Other noon protests were to be held in other Catalan towns and cities and again at 6 p.m. (1700 GMT; 12 p.m. EST).

Spanish authorities removed the Catalan government, dissolved the parliament and called a new regional election for next month following the secession declaration.


11:05 a.m.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel is refusing to comment on the political actions of the ousted Catalan leader in Belgium, saying that Carles Puigdemont's case must be handled by justice authorities alone.

Michel told Belgian lawmakers Wednesday that "as prime minister I consider that I don't have to make any pronouncements about justice, whether it be in Belgium or between European countries."

Michel was lambasted by the lawmakers for his handling of the Catalan crisis and its fallout in Belgium, where Puigdemont and four associates are fighting extradition to Spain.

While some Belgian government officials have criticized Spain's handling of Puigdemont's independence drive, Michel said that the Spanish government remains his partner.

He said: "We have an interlocutor; it is the government in Madrid. It is Spain."


11 a.m.

The Catalan Transit Service says that more than 60 sections of roads and highways have experienced disruptions due to striking protesters on Wednesday morning.

Many of the blockades are on the accesses to big Catalan cities, including the regional capital, Barcelona, and some of the major highways, the Twitter channel of the service has posted.

The national railway operator, Renfe, says that trains stopped working on dozens of local lines because protesters were blocking tracks. Several national high-speed lines have also been affected, Renfe says, with trains delayed or diverted. In the northern town of Girona, protesters bypassed police controls to enter the main railway station.

Separatist workers' unions have called the strike amid unprecedented controls in the region by Spanish central authorities. Political parties and civil society groups are calling for workers to gather midday in the main Catalan cities and again in the evening at the gates of town halls across the region to protest the jailing of ousted secessionist authorities.


10:10 a.m.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says next month's elections in Catalonia should open "a new political era" in the northeastern region with the return to normality and respect for the country's laws.

The conservative leader has defended his government's imposed controls in the northeastern region in the wake of an independence bid by separatist politicians.

Rajoy sacked the separatist Catalan authorities, who are facing possible rebellion charges, dissolved the regional government and has called a snap regional election for Dec. 21.

"I hope that elections open a new political era of coexistence, in which the rules are respected and the Spanish economy recovers," Rajoy said in parliament Wednesday when asked by opposition lawmakers about the extraordinary controls that have led to central authorities to rule directly Catalonia.


9:40 a.m.

Protesters have blocked roads and stopped commuter trains as Catalonia faces a general strike in the wake of unprecedented controls in the region by Spanish central authorities to crush an independence bid.

Intersindical CSC, a platform that groups pro-independence workers' unions, had called the strike for Wednesday to push for labor rights. But the call comes at a sensitive political moment, and separatist parties and civil society groups asked workers to join the stoppage to protest the jailing of activists and ousted Catalan government officials.

Spanish authorities took direct control of Catalonia after regional lawmakers passed an independence declaration on Oct. 27. An early election has been called for next month to replace the sacked regional government.

Among dozens of roads blocked, protesters cut the traffic on the AP7 motorway north of Girona, one of the main arteries connecting France and Spain.

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