Spanish riot police fired rubber bullets to disperse several hundred anti-military demonstrators charging through the streets of Barcelona yesterday, officials and witnesses said. The demonstrators, protesting against a military parade being held in the city and attended by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, clashed with police who fired rubber bullets and arrested several people after scuffles and acts of vandalism. But there were no serious injuries and calm was restored quickly, police said. The military parade, watched by thousands of spectators, was undisturbed amid heavy security measures. The show of military strength to mark Armed Forces Day stirred up local resentment against to the army and the central government, as had been anticipated by political commentators. The Catalonia region has long been a stronghold of nationalism, and the controversial decision to choose Barcelona for the parade had irked the regional government. Nationalist sympathisers associate the Spanish army with the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, whose iron rule was particularly harsh in the northwestern region. They consider Jose Maria Aznar's centre-right government to be the heirs of Franco. A separate pacifist protest took place in a park near the parade, with no incidents reported. Alfredo Prada, the vice president of the Senate, described the disturbances in Barcelona as “artificial and without substance.” He had been attending the Armed Forces Day in Leon. He said that this year, the Spanish Armed Forces had shown that they fight “not only in defence of the interests of Europe and Spain but are also prepared to collaborate in humanitarian aid and show solidarity with the peoples who have problems.”


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