Demonstrators clogged plazas and blocked roadways across Catalonia on Wednesday, calling on Spain's central government to sanction the region's bid for independence and release the eight politicians who were arrested for pursuing it. The one-day, general strike ground traffic to a halt and caused train cancellations in Barcelona and other Catalan cities.
Yet even as protesters chanted in the square outside Barcelona's parliament building, halfway across the country in Madrid, the Constitutional Court was formally annulling the Catalan parliament's declaration of independence. That declaration last month had already drawn the federal government's swift, sweeping decision to dissolve the previously semi-autonomous region's government.
And the court's move Wednesday was not unexpected: In early September, weeks before Catalans even went to the polls (amid chaotic circumstances) to vote on whether to secede, the same court had suspended the regional law that enabled the independence referendum in the first place.
Though seemingly foreordained, the Madrid court's decision still only deepened the standoff. That was nowhere more evident than a six-hour drive away in Barcelona where law enforcement sought to dislodge demonstrators intent on causing gridlock.