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The Spanish government incensed the northern autonomous region of Catalonia when it imprisoned leaders of the Catalan separatist movement for sentences spanning between nine and thirteen years. The jailed leaders had organized a referendum considering Catalan independence in 2017 that the Spanish government viewed as illegitimate. Following the referendum, in which over 90% of people voted in favor of Catalonia separating from Spain, the Spanish government arrested the individuals in charge of organizing the event. Then-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont fled to Germany, and is now in Belgium, in contempt of an international arrest warrant issued by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Upon the sentences being conferred by the Spanish judicial system, people began mass demonstrations in Barcelona against the Madrid government. The current leader of Catalonia, Quim Torra, condemned the sentences as an “act of revenge,” and declared that Catalans would continue to fight for justice. Protesters have adopted the slogan “the streets will always be ours,” while clashing with riot police. The demonstrations began peacefully, but tensions have escalated between protesters and police, which culminated in 33 arrests, and a reported 97 injuries. Quim Torra condemned the violence, and blamed it on people who infiltrated the protests to undermine the movement. Torra called for calm, and a return to civil disobedience.

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