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Catalan separatists clash with police in Barcelona as tensions mount

Catalan separatists clash with police in Barcelona as tensions mount
A woman wearing a Spanish flag hits a man wearing an Independence flag, following a demonstration erupting in clashes in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday. (Daniel Cole / Associated Press)

Clashes between Catalan separatists and police in Barcelona left 14 people injured and led to six arrests Saturday as tensions boiled over days before the anniversary of the Spanish region's illegal referendum on secession, which ended in violent raids by security forces.

Separatists tossed and sprayed colored powder at police officers, filling the air with a thick rainbow cloud and covering anti-riot shields and police vans. Some protesters threw eggs and other objects and engaged with the police line, which used batons to keep them back.

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The clashes erupted after local Catalan police intervened to form a barrier when a separatist threw purple paint on a man who was part of another march of people in support of Spanish police demanding a pay raise. Officers used batons to keep the opposing groups apart.

There were more confrontations as the separatists tried to enter Barcelona's main city square, where 3,000 people supporting Spanish police had ended their march.

Separatists shouted, "Get out of here, fascists!" and "Independence!" at the Spanish police supporters, who responded by shouting, "We will be victorious!" and "Our cause is just!"

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau pleaded for peace when the first scuffles broke out.

"I make a call for calm," Colau told Catalunya Radio. "This city has always defended that everyone can exercise their rights to free speech."

The Catalan police told the Associated Press that the six arrests were made on charges of aggression against police officers. The investigation was continuing.

One police officer was hurt, although it was not immediately clear if the officer was among the 14 people reported by health authorities as needing medical treatment. Three were taken to the hospital while the others were attended to on the street.

There were ugly episodes between members of the opposing groups.

An AP photographer saw a group of several people who had come to support the Spanish police being chased by a mob of around 100 separatists, some of whom tried to kick and trip the supporters before they could reach the safety of local police. Separately, a woman punched a man who supports Catalan secession in the face before police could separate them.

The pro-police march had originally planned to end in another square home to the regional and municipal government seats but 6,000 separatists, according to local police, gathered in the square to force regional authorities to alter the march's route. Some separatists arrived the night before and camped out in the square.

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