VIOLENCE returned to the streets of Barcelona yesterday as anti-riot police clashed with thousands of demonstrators protesting at a meeting of the Spanish cabinet in the city.

There were scenes reminiscent of last year’s independence referendum, when Civil Guard officers laid into would-be voters.

A flood of footage on social media showed police beating protestors – including some who were lying on the ground – with their riot batons.

One video showed three officers using their clubs to beat an unarmed man.

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Pro-independence supporters were angry at the decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to hold his council of minister on the anniversary of the elections that were forced on Catalonia by his predecessor Mariano Rajoy. From early morning they blocked main roads into the Catalan capital after several grassroots groups – and the Catalan Government – called for peaceful protests.

Sanchez had called the meeting “a show of affection towards Catalonia” and his public administration minister, Meritxell Batet, added: “It’s good that a cabinet meeting can take place in any part of Spain – and Barcelona is my city.”

She was speaking after the meeting at the Palau Llotja de Mar building – near the Barcelona seafront – seemingly oblivious to the chanting demonstrators outside, who were behind an extensive police cordon.

Sanchez walked from his hotel to the 14th-century Gothic palace, an event that was broadcast live by Spanish television.

However, the attempt at displaying a sense of normality looked decidedly staged as it showed him walking through empty streets, their junctions guarded by police, as demonstrators jeered at him to “go away”.

Police charged to keep them at bay when they moved rubbish bins and tried to break the double security cordon shielding the venue.

The National:

Sanchez met Catalan President Quim Torra on Thursday night, after which they issued a joint statement calling for dialogue to settle the conflict over the future of the prosperous north-eastern region.

The outcome was better than the low expectations anticipated before the talks, but despite this sign of progress, distrust prevailed.

“It is a provocation,” said Oriol Benet, a 24-year-old pharmacist who was marching with others near the headquarters of the National Police in Barcelona.

Carme Almarza, who was carrying a banner calling for the release of the nine Catalan political prisoners who face trial for alleged rebellion, said she did not trust the politicians’ agreement.

The 52-year-old social worker said: “Not until I see the prisoners freed.”

“Any chance to talk is good,” said Carlos Castilla, who watched from a distance as protesters launched smoke bombs. “It is clear the status quo doesn’t work, they agreed on that. I think the answer is more self-government and that Catalonia manages its own finances.”

The National:

The protests were coordinated by the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), whose members intervened to halt a more radical element who were hiding behind balaclavas and hoods. Police arrested around a dozen demonstrators, while more than 50 were treated by ambulance crews.

The cabinet meeting, itself decided to rename Barcelona airport in honour of Josep Tarradellas, who headed the Catalan government in exile during the Franco dictatorship. It also raised the monthly minimum wage from €736 (£663) to €900 (£811).

Protests were continuing last night, along with ridicule for Sanchez on social media and elsewhere. El Mon commented: “If you need 9000 police officers to be able to hold a cabinet meeting in a part of the territory you govern, perhaps you’re not governing your territory. Perhaps you’re colonising someone else’s territory.”