By Joan Faus
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Several thousand demonstrators banged on kitchen pots and chanted “Catalonia has no king!” on Monday in protest against a visit by the Spanish royal family to the capital of the region that has been hit by weeks of separatist protests.
Attended by King Felipe, his wife Queen Letizia and two daughters, the venue of the Princess of Girona young talent awards ceremony in Barcelona was heavily guarded by police who had installed heavy fences and blocked vans one of the city’s main thoroughfares with vans.
Some protesters burned pictures of the king.
Waving Catalan independence flags, some of the demonstrators yelled abuse at attendees as they tried to reach a police checkpoint, pushing at least one of them, and forcing a few to turn back and try to find another entrance, a Reuters reporter said.
Dolors Aguilera, 70, said the king’s presence in Barcelona was a provocation.
“We have political prisoners in jail. We cannot accept it,” she said referring to nine separatist leaders sentenced on Oct. 14 to long jail terms for their role in Catalonia’s failed independence bid in 2017.
The sentencing triggered a wave of mass protests in Catalonia, during which demonstrators often clashed with police, blocked roads and burned garbage containers and vehicles.
“We have become republican because Madrid treats us like a colony,” said her husband Antoni Gonzalez, a 68-year old pensioner, who had a brought a whistle for the protest.
Independence was the only way forward for the region, he said.
The rekindled Catalonia crisis has also further complicated the country’s fragmented political environment as Spain prepares for its fourth election in as many years on Sunday after having been without a proper government for months.
(Reporting by Joan Faus, writing by Andrei Khalip, Editing by Ingrid Melander and Angus MacSwan)