Spain has been gripped by violence as anti-lockdown protesters clash with police in multiple cities, including Madrid and Barcelona, over the state and regional governments’ move to toughen Covid-19 restrictions.
Protesters torched garbage containers and erected makeshift barricades on Gran Via, and reportedly smashed several store fronts elsewhere in central Madrid on Saturday night.
When police moved in to clear the unruly gathering, they were pelted with stones and flares, and reportedly fired blank bullets, forcing the protesters to disperse into nearby streets.
Meanwhile in Barcelona, police officers were pelted with stones and other projectiles, as they tried to disperse a smaller-scale anti-lockdown protest for the second consecutive night.
The regional government of Catalonia approved a new package of measures this week, including the perimeter confinement of each municipality, limiting people to their own district on weekends.
Clashes also took place in the Spanish city of Logrono, where protesters burned trash containers, smashed windows and looted several shops.
Heated protests were also reported in Granada, Malaga and Bilbao.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez urged Spaniards in a Saturday night tweet to show patience and demonstrate “responsibility, unity and sacrifice” to defeat the global pandemic, while condemning the “violent and irrational behavior” by a “small minority” of the population.
Spain’s parliament approved a six-month extension of the national state of emergency last week, granting regional authorities more power to tackle the country’s second wave of Covid-19. This is Spain’s third extension to the state of emergency during the pandemic and will be in force until May 9, but with an option for it to be lifted on March 9.
Under this new extension, regional governments have the power to control freedom of movement and curfew times without having to go through complicated fortnightly procedures in parliament. Since then, many regions have toughened their coronavirus measures, with nighttime curfews, lockdowns and travel restrictions.