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The Latest: Spanish PM says he will stand firm amid violence

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Spain Catalonia

Demonstrators march along a highway near Girona, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Thousands of people have joined five large protest marches across Catalonia that are set to converge on Barcelona, as the restive region reels from two straight days of violent clashes between police and protesters. The marches set off from several Catalan towns and aimed to reach the Catalan capital by Friday. (AP Photo/Joan Mateu)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on unrest in Spain's Catalonia region (all times local):

9:20 p.m.

Spanish caretaker prime minister Pedro Sánchez says authorities won't be provoked into taking drastic measures following clashes between protesters and police in Catalonia.

Sánchez said in a televised address Wednesday evening the government will respond with "firmness, calmness and unity" to the violence.

As Sánchez spoke in Madrid, in Barcelona tens of thousands of protesters faced off against riot police for a third straight day.

Some protesters hurled stones, bottles and firecrackers before police charged them.

Sánchez consulted with other national political leaders in Madrid during the day about the trouble in Catalonia. Some wanted exceptional measures to be taken in the restive region.

The clashes between supporters of Catalan independence and police have injured more than 200 people over the past three days.

Sánchez blamed "organized groups of extremists" for the violence.

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8 p.m.

Protesters in Barcelona are throwing hundreds of white paper toilet rolls into the air to show their anger over lengthy prison sentences given to separatist Catalan leaders.

The demonstration is being attended by tens of thousands in the Catalan capital Wednesday evening, on the third straight day of protests since the Supreme Court handed down the sentences.

Organizers say the toilet rolls are being thrown because "there is a lot that needs cleaning up."

Hundreds of police are on standby for violence, after more than 200 people were injured in clashes that erupted in Barcelona and other Catalan towns.

Pere Ferrer, director of Catalonia's regional police, says authorities are expecting further clashes with separatist radicals.

The Catalan leaders were convicted for their part in an October 2017 effort to achieve the region's independence.

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3:30 p.m.

The regional leader of restive Catalonia is participating in one of five large marches by separatists that plan to cross Spain's northeast corner in the coming days in protest of the Supreme Court's guilty verdict for a dozen separatist leaders.

Quim Torra, a fervent separatist, said Wednesday that "nobody doubt that this president is beside his people" while walking with the stream of people down a highway between Girona and Barcelona.

The marches from different Catalan towns aim to reach the Catalan capital by Friday.

Catalonia is reeling from two days of violent protests over the Supreme Court's verdict.

Torra has yet to condemn the violence that has left more than 200 people injured.

Torra's office says he plans to only do a part of Wednesday's march.

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3:15 p.m.

The Spanish government says that isn't ruling out any means to guarantee security in Catalonia following three days of major protests over the imprisonment of separatist leaders.

Clashes between angry crowds of mostly young protesters and riot police across the northeastern region have eclipsed largely peaceful demonstrations since Monday's conviction of those who led the 2017 bid for Catalan independence.

Spain's caretaker government has blamed violence on "coordinated groups" and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is discussing the issue in meetings on Wednesday with leaders of opposition parties.

Sánchez has told the conservative Popular Party leader Pablo Casado that "he doesn't rule out any scenario," a government statement said.

It added: "Everything is prepared and (the government) will act, if needed, with firmness, proportionality and unity."

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2:55 p.m.

The Spanish soccer league wants Barcelona's game against Real Madrid to be moved out of the Catalan capital to avoid coinciding with a planned separatist rally.

Separatist groups in Catalonia have called for supporters to rally in Barcelona on Oct. 26 when Barcelona is scheduled to host Madrid in the "El Clásico" match.

The league runs the top two tiers of Spanish soccer. It has called on the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) — which controls regulations and fixtures for professional and amateur games — to shift the match to Madrid. The league has also requested for the return match to be switched from Madrid to Barcelona.

The league said Wednesday it has "requested the competitions committee of the RFEF to meet and change the location of El Clásico because of exceptional circumstances beyond our control."

Catalonia has seen violent protests for the last two days with police clashing with protesters angered by the Supreme Court's decision to sentence nine separatist leaders to prison.

The federation said the clubs have until Monday to respond to the request to change venues.

Catalan independence flags are a regular feature at Barcelona's home games at the Camp Nou Stadium.

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12:05 p.m.

Thousands of people have set out on foot from several towns in Catalonia to protest the sentencing of nine leaders of the region's separatist movement to lengthy prison terms.

Organizers have urged the marchers to be peaceful, after two nights of rioting in Barcelona against the Supreme Court's ruling.

The five marches set off Wednesday and aim to converge on the Catalan capital on Friday.

Also Wednesday, protests continued to clog traffic in Barcelona and students in the restive region went on strike.

Rallies by the Catalan separatist movement have traditionally been non-violent.

But two nights of violent clashes between police and protesters have injured more than 200 people.

Catalan and national officials were meeting separately Wednesday to discuss events.

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9:50 a.m.

Spain is on edge after two straight days of violent clashes in northeastern Catalonia between police and protesters at over the Supreme Court's sentencing of nine leaders of the region's separatist movement to prison.

Protest marches are starting in several Catalan towns on Wednesday with the goal of reaching Barcelona by Friday.

Spain's Interior Ministry says that 54 members of Catalonia's regional police force and 18 National Police officers were hurt when they engaged with protesters on Tuesday.

Police made 29 arrests in Barcelona, the Catalan capital, during a raging street battle Tuesday night. Protesters set light to over 150 barricades they erected in the streets, according to the ministry.

Health authorities say they treated 125 people, both police and protesters, on Tuesday.