Catalan independence protesters block major Spain-France road link
LA JONQUERA, Spain (Reuters) - Catalan pro-independence protesters blocked a border point on the AP-7 highway that connects the Spanish region with France on Monday, stopping traffic in both directions the day after a parliamentary election in Spain.
Around 500 people cut the highway - an important truck route from France to southern Spain - at the border point of La Jonquera, some on the French side and the rest in Spain, a Catalan police spokesman said. Traffic was being diverted to another road and protesters were setting up a stage.
Catalonia has been rocked by mass protests since long prison sentences were handed down in mid-October to nine separatist leaders who spearheaded a failed independence bid in 2017.
The campaign for Catalan independence has been mostly peaceful for years, but some protests turned violent last month, with a minority of mostly young demonstrators torching cars and bin containers and launching petrol bombs at police.
Secretive campaign group Democratic Tsunami, which has organised mass protests including at Barcelona airport last month, claimed responsibility for Monday's disruption.
Anti-riot officers from the Catalan regional police were in a toll area four kilometers away from the Spain-France border protest, the police spokesman said.
Democratic Tsunami called on people to go to the blocked border point, saying on Twitter its goal was to call upon the international community "to make the Spanish state understand that the only way is to sit down to talk".
The group, which says it favours peaceful civil disobedience, said last week that it would organise a three-day protest starting on Monday, which would be its "most ambitious" action.
Sunday's national election, Spain's fourth in four years, produced a divided parliament, setting the stage for a difficult negotiations on forming a government.
(Reporting by Rafael Marchante, Bart Biesemans and Jordi Rubio; Writing by Joan Faus; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Peter Graff)