Spain takes over coordinating police work in Catalonia
25 September, 2017, 00:24 | Author: Brian Mcdaniel
Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido confirmed Friday that extra police are being sent to the Catalan region in order to stop the referendum taking place, while the Spanish Public Prosecutor announced it will try to place charges of sedition against those suspected of organizing street demonstrations following the arrest of 14 Catalan public officials accused of aiding preparations for the referendum.
State police already on the ground carried out unprecedented raids on regional government offices, printers, newspapers and delivery companies, searching for campaign material on Wednesday.
It was only about three years ago that Catalonia had its last independence referendum where 80% of voters opted to separate from Spain, though bearing in mind that this only represented an estimated 37-41% of the population.
The arrests risked stoking public anger in Catalonia, where pro-independence passions can run high.
Spain's central government says the referendum goes against the country's 1978 constitution, which states Spain is indivisible.
Protesters gathered in their thousands yesterday outside Catalonia's Economy Ministry in Barcelona to demand the release of officials arrested for planning an independence vote deemed illegal by Madrid.
The rally in Montreal was organized by a Quebec sovereigntist group and was attended by several separatist politicians, including the leaders of the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois.
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Catalonia's regional government said new measures including a ban on police time off were over the top and meant to create a false impression of crisis.
The Catalan government said Saturday it would resist Madrid's measures.
As part of the crackdown, police confiscated almost 10 million ballot papers, the Interior Ministry said.
The demonstrators answered a call by pro-independence civic groups to stage long-term street protests against the police surprise crackdown one day earlier.
Barcelona Football Club, which is popular around the world, waded into the controversy, too.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 state police officers from other regions of Spain have arrived or are on their way to Catalonia. The soccer team said it "condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of (democratic) rights" and vowed to "continue to support the will of the majority of Catalan people, and will do so in a civil, peaceful, and exemplary way". It gave no details on the number of agents involved.
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