BARCELONA - Catalonia's pro-independence regional chief Quim Torra called for talks on Saturday with Spain's central government following five days of unrest triggered by the jailing of Catalan separatist leaders.
"We urge the acting prime minister of the Spanish government to sit at a negotiating table to talk," Torra told reporters, adding that this week's violence did not reflect the peaceful nature of the Catalan independence movement."Violence has never been and will never be our way, not in Barcelona, nor in Tarragona, nor in Lleida, nor in Girona," he said, referring to cities in Catalonia that have been swept up in the recent mayhem.
Barcelona suffered its worst night of urban unrest in decades on Friday as masked youths blocked roads with blazing garbage bins and hurled rocks at security forces. Police responded firing repeated rounds of smoke grenades and tear gas.
Health authorities said 182 people across the region were hurt, including 152 in Barcelona. Some 17 police also needed hospital treatment in the city.
Police said they arrested 54 people on the fifth day of clashes which were sparked by Spain's Supreme Court handing down lengthy prison terms to nine Catalan leaders who staged a banned referendum on independence in 2017.
Torra earlier this week said Catalonia should hold a new vote on independence from Spain within two years. On Saturday he said the will of the people would be respected. "We will go as far as the people of Catalonia want to go," he said.
Independence is a highly divisive issue in Catalonia, which is Spain's wealthiest region, with a poll in July showing backing for secession at its lowest level in two years, with 48.3% of people against and 44% in favor.