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Hundreds of Thousands in Streets as General Strike Engulfs Catalonia After Violent Crackdown

People took to the streets in Barcelona and across the Catalan region to condemn a militant crackdown by Spain's police forces during last weekend's referendum for independence

Hundreds of thousands of people filled Barcelona's streets on Tuesday to protest Spanish police forces' militant response to the independence vote on Sunday. (Photo: @CatalansforYes/Twitter)

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the streets of Catalonia on Tuesday to join a general strike and protest violence that left nearly 900 people injured this weekend, when Spain's national police forces tried to prevent Catalan residents from voting for secession.

Ahead of Sunday's independence vote, which Madrid claims is unconstitutional, the government shipped additional forces to Catalonia. Spanish police not only seized ballot materials and closed polling stations but many also physically behaved violently toward the region's residents, which was captured in photos and videos that were widely shared online.

Despite Madrid's efforts to stymie the referendum, preliminary polling has shown voters overwhelmingly supported Catalan independence. Following the vote, Spain's national government is under mounting global pressure, including from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, to resolve the regional independence dispute and investigate allegations of abuse by police.

Those concerns were echoed in Barcelona, the Catalan capitol, on Tuesday, where hundreds of thousands of people—"many draped in the blue, yellow, and red Estelada flag used by Catalan separatists"—stopped traffic and marched through the streets chanting "independence" and "the streets will always be ours," the Guardian reports.

Protesters denounced Spanish police as "an occupying force," and urged them to leave Catalonia. "The protest came as several small labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups urged workers throughout Catalonia to go on partial or full-day strikes," the Guardian reports. More than 40 unions and organizations called for the general strike.

Schools and universities as well as most small businesses shut down, responding to union calls to "vigorously condemn" police action. Barcelona metro stations "that are usually busy were deserted as services were cut back sharply," as was the city's Boqueria market.

Videos of Tuesday's protest spread rapidly on social media:

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