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The Latest: Catalan separatists march in Barcelona

December 21, 2018
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Protesters hold placards during a rally in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. Thousands of pro-independence protesters angry about Spain's Cabinet holding a meeting in Catalonia blocked roads across the region Friday and clashed with anti-riot police in its capital. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on Spanish Cabinet meeting being held in Barcelona (all times local):

6:35 p.m.

Thousands of people are marching in downtown Barcelona to press their demands for Catalonia’s independence from the rest of Spain.

The demonstration Friday was convened by the Catalan National Assembly, a pro-independence grassroots group that was one of the main drivers of last year’s failed push for secession by some political parties in the region. Protesters held signs saying “Freedom” and “Peace.”

The march came hours after some separatists clashed with riot police in Barcelona during a protest against the Spanish Cabinet’s weekly meeting being held in the Catalan capital.

Emergency services say those clashes left 51 people injured, including 30 police officers.

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2 p.m.

The Spanish government has taken the first step to nullify a court-martial trial that led to the execution in 1940 of Lluis Companys, the Catalan regional president arrested by the German Nazi secret police in France and handed over to the regime of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.

During a cabinet meeting held in the northeastern city of Barcelona amid protests by Catalan separatists, Spain’s Socialist administration also proposed renaming Barcelona airport in honor of Josep Tarradellas, who headed the Catalan government in exile during the dictatorship.

Government Spokeswoman Isabel Celaa also confirmed nationwide measures previously announced: The country’s monthly minimum wage will be raised from 736 to 900 euros ($1,019) and civil servants’ salaries will increase 2.5 percent starting on Jan. 1, as part of an effort to adjust incomes to the economic recovery after years of austerity.

The 22-percent minimum wage hike is part of the Socialists’ deal to pass the country’s 2019 budget with the support of Podemos, an anti-austerity party.

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1:30 p.m.

Scuffles between radical separatist protesters and police as Spain’s prime minister met with his cabinet in Catalonia’s capital are angering some peaceful pro-independence supporters.

The Mossos d’Esquadra regional police says that seven people have been arrested Friday for clashes with anti-riot agents or disturbing public order. The police force said in a tweet that one of the protesters was found with material to make Molotov cocktails, which create small explosions.

A TV channel journalist was also attacked by some protesters, the Intereconomia channel said in footage distributed online.

Grassroots separatist groups and unions had called the protests to show their disgust at Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s cabinet visit.

Retired salesman Romualdo Sedo, who displayed a yellow ribbon pin in support of jailed separatist politicians, says he wants things to be “resolved in a peaceful way.”

“I am not with those who cover their faces,” he said, “even if there are protesting the same thing I am.”

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10:30 a.m.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Spanish Cabinet members have arrived in a central Barcelona palace for a weekly Cabinet meeting that has been moved to the Catalan capital despite separatists’ protests against it.

Sanchez’s Socialist administration planned the meeting to convey an image of normalcy, but tension remains high in Catalonia despite progress in talks on Thursday with the pro-secession president of the northeastern region.

Some scuffles have broken out on Friday in central Barcelona between pro-independence protesters trying to reach the venue of the Cabinet meeting and police trying to stop them.

The regional Mossos d’Esquadra police force says that one protester has been arrested for public disorder near the headquarters of Spain’s National Police in a downtown avenue.

The meeting normally takes place in Madrid, but Sanchez has vowed to take it to other Spanish cities as a gesture of commitment to decentralization.

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7:40 a.m.

Catalan authorities say protesters angry about Spain’s Cabinet holding a meeting in Barcelona have blocked a major highway and dozens of roads, disrupting traffic to and from the city.

Pro-independence protesters called the protests to show their disgust at Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s decision to lead the weekly Cabinet meeting in Barcelona.

Security in the prosperous northeastern region, normally in the hands of the Catalan police, has been reinforced with hundreds of anti-riot officers from Spain’s national police force.

Sanchez has agreed with the pro-secession leader of the region, Quim Torra, to work on finding a solution to the political crisis that has festered since Catalonia’s failed secession attempt last year. Their meeting on Thursday was only the second since both took power earlier this year.

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