Far-right Spanish nationalist mobs are helping fuel the rising violence in Catalonia, violently attacking and engaging with independence activists and wider protests new reports indicate.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised caution to travellers to the region amidst the escalating tensions, with protests entering their sixth day following five successive days of violence.
The far-right were instrumental in clashes around Barcelona on Thursday when a 200 to 300 strong nationalist mob attempted to storm one of the main pro-independence rallies, leading to police intervention and clashes on both sides. Draped in the Spanish flag with many carrying baseball bats and knives, the mob were heard to chant “Franco! Franco!” in reference to former dictator Francisco Franco.
The main protest was organised by the pro-independence Committees to Defend the Republic (CDR) and was attended by a conservative 13,000 marchers. 11 were arrested during the incident with 18 people injured, including one activist who was said to have been badly beaten by the neo-fascists.
The Catalonia question has come central to the platform of the extreme far-right Vox Party who verdantly oppose any negotiation or conciliation to Catalan secessionists. Seeking to politically profit from escalating violence, there have been accusations that Vox has both encouraged and welcomed the violence to add fuel to their own authoritarian and anti-socialist message.
Vox has quickly risen to become one of the most concerning far-right parties in Europe, standing on an anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, anti-feminism and anti-gay rights platform. The party favours a ban on abortion and is also strongly pro-Israel.
With Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez coming under increasing criticism and pressure from both sides over the Spanish governments handling of the affair, there are fears that Vox will successfully manipulate themselves into being perceived as the party of nationalism and law and order.
The recent wave of protests, activism and clashes surrounding the Catalan independence movement began on Monday after the Spanish supreme court jailed nine Catalan leaders over their roles in the movement’s 2017 attempt at independence. The court found the nine guilty of crimes ranging from sedition to misuse of public funds and disobedience.
The former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras was convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds and given a sentence of 13 years in prison. The former Catalan foreign minister Raül Romeva, labour minister Dolors Bassa and regional spokesman Jordi Turull were given 12 years for the same offences. The former speaker of the Catalan parliament Carme Forcadell was sentenced to 11 and a half years, former interior minister Joaquim Forn and territorial minister Josep Rull were given 10 and half years. Activists Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez were given nine years for sedition.