The Spanish government dismissed calls on Saturday from Catalonia's pro-independence regional chief for talks following a wave of violence sparked by the jailing of separatist leaders.
Protesters took to the streets of the region's capital city Barcelona for a sixth straight day, sitting defiantly in a city center square in front of a row of police vans. "Out, out, out with the Spanish flag," they chanted. "The streets will always be ours."
Three hours after the start of the evening rally there was no sign of the sort of violence that racked Barcelona on Friday when masked youths blocked roads with blazing garbage bins and hurled rocks at security forces.
Catalonia's president Quim Torra said the unprecedented unrest did not reflect the peaceful nature of the Catalan independence movement and asked for discussions with Madrid.
"We urge the acting prime minister of the Spanish government to sit at a negotiating table to talk," he told reporters.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Torra must first unequivocally condemn the tumult. "Mr. Torra must strongly condemn the violence, which he has not done so far," Sanchez said in a statement, adding that Torra also needed to build bridges with the many Catalans who do not want secession.
"The government of Spain reiterates that the problem of Catalonia is not independence, which will not occur because it is not legal and nor do the majority of Catalans want it, but rather coexistence," he said.
Torra responded with a brief statement saying he had always denounced violence and accused Sanchez of behaving irresponsibly for refusing to meet. "Once again the acting prime minister has no proposal for Catalonia," he said.
Protests erupted on Monday after Spain's Supreme Court handed down lengthy prison terms to nine Catalan leaders for their role in a failed independence bid in 2017, which included staging a referendum that courts had deemed illegal.
Nearly 200 people were hurt in another violent clash in Catalonia Saturday after radical separatists hurled rocks and fireworks at police who responded with teargas and rubber bullets. One hundred fifty more were injured in Barcelona.